“Devilish Mary”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1897
Keywords: courting marriage cross-dressing abuse shrewishness
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So)


The singer meets a "pretty little girl" named Mary; they get married within days. She then starts taking over his life, wearing his pants, and abuses and torments him. At last he leaves. He vows to court only tall/short girls who can't wear his breeches


Cohen notes that "Laws... lists this as a ballad, but just as often it is performed as a fiddle or banjo tune with occasional lyrics." Cohen also notes that Laws's claim of a British Isles origin is unsubstantiated. The collection data confirm this, and the style is, in my opinion, very un-British. - RBW

Cross references



  1. Laws Q4, "Devilish Mary"
  2. Randolph 437, "Devilish Mary" (4 texts, 3 tunes)
  3. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 331-333, "Devilish Mary" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 331)
  4. Lomax-FSNA 93, "Devilish Mary" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. JHCoxIIA, #13A-C, pp. 57-60, "The Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin," "Dandoo" (3 texts, 1 tune, but the "B" text omits the beating typical of Child #277 and has the husband run away; it appears to have mixed with this song or something like it)
  6. SharpAp 149, "Devilish Mary" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  7. Chase, pp. 154-155, "Devilish Mary" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Botkin-SoFolklr, p. 721, "Devilish Mary" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. PSeeger-AFB, p. 70, "Devilish Mary" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Darling-NAS, pp. 145-149, "Devilish Mary" (1 text)
  11. Silber-FSWB, p. 191, "Devilish Mary" (1 text)
  12. DT 518, DEVLMARY*
  13. Roud #1017
  14. BI, LQ04