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Susanna Cox (1785–1809) was a young domestic servant in Berks County, Pennsylvania, accused of murdering her illegitimate infant son. Berks County was home to large populations of German-language immigrants who settled there in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Cox shared this German heritage (referred to as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch). Cox was an uneducated woman who spoke a German dialect and could do little to defend herself in court.
Furthermore, she was tried at a time when American laws were changing. After a brief trial, Cox was hanged in Reading, Pennsylvania, on June 10, 1809. Following her execution, her story gained such sympathy that it was written in a ballad and widely circulated in German and in English through newspapers and broadsides (sheets of paper printed on one side). This immensely popular ballad was printed in over 88 editions in its broadside form throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today, the ballad is read at the annual summer Kutztown Folk Festival to audiences who listen intently and then witness an effigy of Cox hanged in a dramatic reenactment.
- Suter, Patricia, with Russell and Corinne Earnest, The Hanging of Susanna Cox: The True Story of Pennsylvania's Most Notorious Infanticide and the Legend That's Kept It Alive (Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books) 2010
- Nest, Bathsheba Doran, a fictional play based on the story of Susanna Cox, Samuel French Publisher, 2008.
- Earnest, Russell and Corinne, Flying-Leaves and One-Sheets: Pennsylvania German Broadsides, Fraktur, and Their Printers (New Castle, Dela.: Oak Knoll Books, 2005).
- Yoder, Don, The Pennsylvania German Broadside: A History and Guide (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005).
- Richards, Louis, "Susanna Cox: Her Crime and its Expiation," Paper read before the Historical Society of Berks County, Pa., 13 March 1900.