Saturday, July 9, 2022

Mad Infatuation.

After attending the early service at St. Sylvester’s Church in Chicago on June 23, 1895, Mary Linnett went to the home of her friend Frances Sharman. Both women were bright and attractive but quite different in appearance. Mary, age 17, was exceedingly slender with a ruddy complexion; Frances, about 38 years old, was plump and fair. The two were close friends, but Frances began to worry that Mary’s affection for her was becoming obsessive.

Mary went to the back door and asked Frances to come outside and talk. Frances refused, and as she turned to leave, Mary drew a revolver and fired four shots. Three of them missed, but one struck the back of her head, wounding her scalp. Frances hurried upstairs while her sister sent for a physician. A neighbor who heard the shots summoned the police.

“I have been expecting something like this for some time.” Frances told her sister, “Mary has had a deep affection for me ever since we first met, and I must say that I liked her equally well. Some time ago, she told me that if I did not give her more of my attention, she would take my life and end her own existence. Lately, she has not been herself, and if I would talk with any one of my friends, she would chide me, then implore me to give her all my love, for if I didn’t, she would die of a broken heart. I feel confident that my friend has done away with herself.”

Mary returned home and rushed into the house with the pistol still in her hand. She threw the weapon to the floor and cried in an agonized voice:

“I have killed her as I said I would, and I’m now going to end my own miserable life.”

She ran from the house and disappeared down an alley.

Mary did not kill herself; the police arrested her the following day and charged her with assault with intent to kill. They brought her before Justice Doyle at the Desplaines Street Police Court, who continued the case until the city physician could examine Mary and determine her sanity.

Mary had a history of obsessive attraction to women. She was said to have written passionate letters to three or four young ladies, in which she told them of her love and related how she watched them through the windows as they retired for the night and almost died with a desire to embrace and kiss them. The press compared this case to that of Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward in Memphis three years earlier, where a romantic relationship between two young women ended in murder.

Mary’s father, James Linnett, put the blame on Frances, saying, “It’s not my girl’s fault. She acted under hypnotic influence.”

The city physician determined that Mary was not sane and committed her to the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane in Elgin, Illinois.

The following December, physicians at the institution determined that Mary Linnett was cured, and discharged her. However, the physicians there did not notice that Mary had developed a passionate attraction to Elizabeth Trowbridge, her attendant at the hospital. 

On April 13, Mary approached Elizabeth Trowbridge on South State Street in Elgin. Mary tried to persuade Elizabeth to go with her to Chicago, where the two would live together. When Elizabeth refused, Mary drew her revolver once more and fired two shots. The first shot instantly killed Elizabeth; the second ended Mary’s life. The police found both women lying dead on the sidewalk in a pool of blood, the revolver still in Mary’s hand.

 “Day's Doings in a Big City,” Chicago Chronicle, June 24, 1895.
“Hypnotism The Cause of It,” Indianapolis Sun, June 25, 1895.
“Infatuated,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 24, 1895.
“An Insane Deed,” Lawrence Daily Journal, April 14, 1896.
“Mary Linnett Arrested,” Daily Inter Ocean, June 25, 1895.
“News Notes and Comments,” Arizona weekly journal-miner, April 22, 1896.
“Strange Love of a Girl,” Hamilton Daily Republican, June 24, 1895.
“Was Bent on Murder,” Daily Inter Ocean, June 24, 1895.


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