“She speaks with much dexterity”: the life of a female forger in early 18th century London

My guest post for the Old Bailey Online/London Lives blog Crime in the Community.

Crime in the Community

"Old Woman Eating" by Quiringh Van Brekelenkam (Google Art Project) “Old Woman Eating” by Quiringh Van Brekelenkam (Google Art Project)

Leah Wilkinson was described as a ‘notorious old offender’ by the Navy in 1712. She had a long career as a forger and con-woman – with known criminal offences being committed over a 30 year duration. She made a living by forging wills and letters of attorney for seamen, and was able to carry on this criminal career because of her powers of persuasion and language, undeterred by spells on the pillory.

Although biographical details for Leah are few, from my research, it looks like she was born Leah Lowe into a Quaker family in London. She married Samuel Wilkinson in 1688, and they had at least one son.

The first time Leah is recorded as appearing at the Old Bailey is on 3 December 1695. She was accused of forging seven letter of attorney and wills, purporting to have…

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