Hanging of Susanna Cox
The hanging of Susanna Cox (1785-1809) has been performed at the Kutztown Folk Festival (originally called the Kutztown Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival) since the festival’s first year in 1950. It is a sad story of a poor Pennsylvania Dutch hired out as farm hand who became pregnant, probably from a member of her employer’s household. Her pregnancy was unknown to her employers who found a dead fetus. Susanna admitted to being the mother but claimed that child had been stillborn. There was evidence that the child had been put to death and Susanna was convicted of murder and put to death by hanging in Reading, Pa. There was considerable sympathy for her plight and a song was composed that became well known in the Pennsylvania German region. According to Florence Baver of the Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Culture Center in Lenhartsville, the song was still known in the middle of the 20th century.
An early version of the story of Susanna Cox can be found here:
A book about the event:
Suter, Patricia, Russell D. Earnest, and Corinne P. Earnest. 2010. The hanging of Susanna Cox: the true story of Pennsylvania's most notorious infanticide & the legend that's kept it alive. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.
Broadsides with the song in English and Deitsch can be found in these locations:
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Donner, Bill, "Hanging of Susanna Cox" (2015). Kutztown Folk Festival Performers. 9.