Jane Pirie

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Jane Pirie (27 March 1779 – 6 March 1833) was a Scottish woman who opened a girls' school in Edinburgh and who became involved in a court case as a result of being accused of lesbianism[1] with the co-founder of the school, Marianne Woods (1781–1870). Her accuser was Jane Cumming, a pupil of mixed race, and a granddaughter of Lady Helen Cumming Gordon, who alleged that the two women "engaged in irregular sexual practices"[2] and "lewd and indecent behaviour."[3]

Jane Cumming was the first pupil to leave the school, and within days, all the other pupils left as well.[4] Lady Cumming Gordon spread rumours of these allegations. Jane Pirie and Marianne Woods sued her, and despite winning the case in 1812, the case was appealed to the House of Lords, which ultimately dismissed the appeal. Although Marianne Woods obtained employment in London, Jane Pirie stayed in Edinburgh and was unable to find employment, and "possibly had a nervous breakdown."

The story of the court case was the inspiration for Lillian Hellman's 1934 play The Children's Hour.[2]


  1. ^ Haggerty, George; Zimmerman, Bonnie (1999). Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia. Gay histories and cultures. Vol. 2. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780815333548.
  2. ^ a b Ewan, Elizabeth, ed. (2018). The new biographical dictionary of Scottish women. Edinburgh. ISBN 9781474436298. OCLC 1057237368.
  3. ^ Zimmerman, Bonnie (2013-08-21). Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures. Routledge. ISBN 9781136787508.
  4. ^ "Drumsheugh: Lesbian sex row rocked society". The Scotsman. 2009-02-25. Retrieved 2019-02-21.