26th June 1796

Jilted Dorothea Christina Thomas is born

Dorothea Christina Thomas was born in Grenada and was living in Demerara, British Guiana, when she met Scotsman Captain John Gordon. Although Britain administered Demerara at the time of their meeting, Dutch law still applied, and thus it was under the Dutch legal system that the couple effectively ‘married’, with an exchange of rings and Dorothea taking John’s surname, Gordon.

Return to Scotland

John’s work took the family back to Scotland when he was promoted to major, and they moved around between Glasgow, Ireland and England before finally settling in Edinburgh.

By this time, the family was already having financial problems, which weren’t helped much when Dorothea’s mother, a woman of colour who had purchased her own release and since had success running a hotel, offered a somewhat postponed dowry of £5,000. John had wanted double that amount.

Eventually, John found a regular source of income in the form of a wealthy widow, and he told Dorothea that he was leaving her which, he believed, he was free to do on the basis that their marriage had been conducted under Dutch law, and was thus invalid.

Case comes to court

Dorothea disagreed, and she pursued him through the courts, which heard evidence from both sides over many years. Eventually it ruled in John’s favour on the basis that, whatever the couple might have claimed early in their relationship, and regardless of the fact they had travelled so far together and had children, his friends and family didn’t recognise the union because they had never made a big thing out of it. They apparently believed John to be single.

Dorothea was ordered to return to Demerara, and leave her children behind.



Other events that occured in June

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