1742 William Hogarth – Miss Mary Edwards
Miss Mary Edwards was an heiress who found herself trapped in a terrible marriage to a husband who was gambling away her fortune. In 18th-century Britain, divorce was very hard to obtain, while the law gave husbands control of their wives’ property.
So she denied that they’d ever been married. She went back to the clergyman who married them, got the registry entry destroyed, and added an entry for the birth of her son, listing herself, his mother, as a spinster. This was scandalous: it made her a fallen woman, the socially-unacceptable mother of an illegitimate baby – but it put her back in control of her fortune, allowing her to get away from her husband and live independently with her child.
And then she had herself painted by Hogarth, in a red dress with lace and diamonds.
There is something so “fuck you, world!” about that smile.