Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Victorian Murderess.

The ideal woman in Victorian (and pre-Victorian) America was modest, prim and respectable, but when a woman deviated from the ideal she did it with gusto. When a Victorian woman turned to murder she was ruthless, efficient and often brutal. Poisoning was the traditional method for women; it required no strength and allowed for dispassionate murder at a distance. But when the murder was driven by passion, Victorian women proved equally adept at shooting, stabbing, slashing, strangling and chopping. Here in chronological order are Murder by Gaslight’s female killers:

Lucretia Chapman - 1831

Lucretia Chapman conspired with her young Cuban lover, Carolino Amalia Espos y Mina, to poison her husband William Chapman. Lucretia went free; Carolino went the gallows.

Frankie Silver - 1831

After enduring years of physical abuse from her husband, Charles, Frankie Silver could take no more. She chopped him up with an axe and burned the pieces in the fireplace.

Henrietta Robinson - 1853

Henrietta Robinson wore a black veil over her face throughout her trial for poisoning her neighbors, Timothy Lanagan and Catherine Lubee. The motive for the murder was as mysterious as the murderess herself.

Emma Cunningham - 1857

Emma Cunningham did all she could to get her clutches on wealthy dentist, Dr. Henry Burdell. But when he proved unfaithful, she left him stabbed and strangled in his office.

Lydia Sherman - 1864-1871

After poisoning her husband, Horatio, Lydia Sherman was so impressed by the effectiveness of arsenic that she poisoned two more husbands and seven of her children.

Laura Fair - 1870

For fifteen years, Alexander Crittenden promised to leave his wife and marry his mistress Laura Fair. When Laura finally realized that it would never happen, she shot Alexander, point blank, in front of his wife and son.

Fanny Windley Hyde - 1872

From the age of fifteen, Fanny Hyde had been sexually harassed by her boss, factory owner George Watson. At age eighteen she found an effective way to end the harassment—a bullet to George Watson’s head.

Kate Stoddard (Lizzie King) - 1873

Kate Stoddard met Charles Goodrich through an ad he had placed in the newspaper, looking for a wife. She fell hopelessly in love with him, but Charles was still shopping around. When she learned that he was engaged to another woman, Kate confronted him with a pistol.

Sarah Jane Robinson - 1881-1886

Perpetually in debt, Sarah Jane Robinson was always looking for ways to augment her income and cut expenses. She found the perfect solution: murdering family members. Mrs. Robinson poisoned seven members of her family and one landlord.

Roxalana Druse - 1884

Trapped for twenty years in a loveless and abusive marriage, in 1884 Roxy Druse could take it no more. With the help of her brother, daughter, and son, she shot her husband William, chopped him into pieces and burned them in the stove, then dumped the ashes in the swamp.

Minnie Walkup - 1885

Minnie Wallace married 48-year-old James Walkup when she was only 16. A year and a half later he died of arsenic poisoning. Though Minnie was acquitted of murder, her second husband also died from poison, as did a lover she took after his death.

Alice Mitchell - 1892

Alice Mitchell’s “unnatural love” for Freda Ward caused Freda’s family to separate the two girls. Alice decided that if she could not have Freda, no one could, and she slashed her with a straight razor.

Lizzie Borden - 1892

Though acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother, Lizzie Borden’s guilt is still debated. If, as many believe, she actually did chop up her parents with an axe, she was probably the most brutal murderess of the century.

Maria Barbella - 1895

Maria Barbella was drugged and seduced by Domenico Cataldo. He kept her as his mistress, but Maria wanted marriage. When he told her that marriage was for pigs, Maria cut his throat with a razor.

Frankie Baker - 1899

Frankie Baker was a St. Louis prostitute in love with her pimp, Allen Britt. When she learned he was cheating on her with Alice Pryar she went after him with a pistol. The story of the murder became one of the most popular American songs of all time - "Frankie and Johnny”.


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