Jane Cakebread, ‘The Drunkennest Woman in the World.’

Jane Cakebread was a record holder in the the Olympics of Disorderly Intoxication. That dubious distinction was based on at least 281 convictions in London for drunkenness or disorderly conduct.

Cakebread died in 1898 at the age of 57. At age 17 she moved to London to work as a maid. During her 40 years there, she is estimated to have spent over 30% of her time in confinement. That equals about twelve and one-half years.

Lady Henry Somerset

Lady Henry Somerset was a strong advocate of temperance. She had even established a home for inebriates on her estate. Lady Henry carefully considered the matter of Jane Cakebread. She concluded that Cakebread was not bad at heart, wasn’t cruel, had never willfully harmed anyone. To rescue her, Lady Henry convinced Jane to enter her temperance home.

Jane Cakebread

Jane Cakebread

Within a few days, Cakebread had turned the home into chaos. At the end of three weeks, she was asked to leave. She was completely unmanageable. Worse yet, she corrupted other residents.

A few days later Cakebread was in police court again. At Lady Henry’s suggestion, she was sent for a psychiatric evaluation. There, she kicked the medical director in the ribs, breaking two of them.

Cakebread may have been the reason the Inebriates Act of 1898 was passed. That law provided special homes for what were called habitual drunkards.

Obituary

Her Los Angeles Herald obituary wrote that

when imprisoned she would sing her favorite hymns or recite portions of the Bible.  Her memory was sharp; she could quote two chapters from the Book of Job.   She prayed on her knees, only to rise from those prayers and spew obscenities.  Clearly she was insane. 1

London newspapers had made her story a standing joke for years.  She was committed to a “lunatic asylum” in early 1896 and died there late in 1898.

When it came to intoxicated behavior, Jane Cakebread took the cake.

Reference

1 Jane Cakebread obituary, Los Angeles Herald, December 18, 1898, 26( 79) .

Resources

Cakebread, Jane. In: Cherrington, E. (Ed.) Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem. Vol. 2. Westerville, OH: Am Issue, 1924, p. 474.

Jane Cakebread obituary. Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW) 27 Oct 27, 1898, p.  3.