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The Unfortunate Mary Webley

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An Ordinary Life |Tales through Letters | A War Veteran
Family Violence | Mistaken Identity | Divorce and Remarriage
Abuse and Independence | Property Rights | The Invisible Economy
The Unfortunate Mary Webley | Family or Freedom
That Properly Belongs to Every Christian Man, 1708 | Virginia Indian Women

The events described in the petition to the General Assembly from Mary Webley, of Norfolk, took place on 1 January 1776, when British naval vessels in the Elizabeth River fired several cannon balls into Norfolk. One of the shots broke her leg while she was nursing her youngest child, and later in the day Virginia and North Carolina soldiers burned the city, leaving working families like hers homeless. Because her husband had lost an arm in an accident many years earlier, the family had no means left for supporting itself.

There was no Red Cross and there were no social service agencies available to people like "the unfortunately Mary Webly" and her "miserable little Children." Her only chance for public assistance was to ask the legislature for a special appropriation. According to docketing on the back of the petition, the assembly voted to award her 10.

Petition of Mary Webley. 11 October 1776. Manuscript. RG 78, Legislative Petitions, Norfolk (Borough). Library of Virginia.