Document Type

Essays, Studies, and Works


We first conceived the idea of writing a hybrid piece containing elements of opera and musical theatre in 1998. The musical, as we now call it, is based on Lillian Faderman’s Scotch Verdict, which revolves around the true story of Jane Pirie and Marianne Woods who ran a boarding school for girls in 1810 Edinburgh, Scotland. The accusation of one of their students, Jane Cumming, illegitimate grandchild of wealthy and powerful Dame Cumming Gordon, brought ruin upon the school and the schoolmistresses. Jane Cumming had accused the schoolmistresses of committing “unnatural acts” together. This tale told to Dame Gordon led to letters circulated to the families of the other girls of the school, and in a matter of a couple of days, no one remained at the school except for Jane and Marianne. Jane and Marianne went to the best lawyer in Edinburgh to sue Dame Gordon for libel, and from this actual case, we have the complete trial transcript. The tale may sound familiar to you as it is the same story that Lillian Hellman presents in A Children’s Hour, though she never gave credit to the original historical incident.

Publication Date


Journal Title






First Page



©2011-2012 Cynthia Goatley and Rebecca Burkhardt



File Format




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.