In 1701 Puritan minister John Rogers published the criminal narrative of Esther Rodgers, who had been convicted of infanticide and executed. Esther Rodgers appears in Rogers’s Death the Certain Wages of Sin not as a depraved criminal or even a repentant sinner but as a courageous Christian martyr. Much of the productive recent scholarship on Rodgers studies the way her criminal status operated in the public sphere generally or print culture specifically, but the literary construction of her legal criminal status reveals a larger negotiation over marginalized individuals’ ability to consent and dissent in early New England and an unexpected orientation toward choice in early American literature. Rogers and his contemporaries engaged the conventions of the early modern criminal narrative to organize the chaos of maternal tragedy according to fictions of choice and the conventions of ancient and antique scripture to recast execution as a prelude to salvation. But in the ill-fitting spaces between the criminal’s story and the forms to which these authors suited it, readers could see a character who was something more—or less—than murderer or martyr: a sympathetic victim granted the ability to consent only in order to certify her legal culpability, religious conversion, and complicity in the macabre spectacle of her own public execution.

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