Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why Are So Many Wives Killing Their Husbands? - Headline from 1911


FULL Headline & Sub-headlines:

“Why Are So Many Wives Killing Their Husbands?

Ten Cases, With Such Unusual Features as to Attract National Attention, Within a Few Weeks, Emphasize a Remarkable Condition Which May Be Both a Development of the New Woman Movement of the Baleful Fruit of the Extraordinary Leniency Shown in the Courts of Women Accused of Murder

Public Attitude in Such Cases Shown When St. Louis Coroner’s Juries Weep With Two Fair Defendants and Texas Judge Has to Force Indictment of Another.

ARTICLE FULL TEXT:


~ Wives Recently Accused of Killing Husbands ~

– Following is a summary of the status of cases against wives in the United States recently accused of killing their husbands.

– Matheson, Mrs. Lucy: Shot her husband in the home of a negress. Indictment found with difficulty and jury acquitted her in 10 minutes.

– Stannard, Mrs. Laura: Accused of poisoning her husband with a drug intended to stop him from drinking liquor. Acquitted.

– Mollicone, Mr. Assunta: Held for trial in Denver jail for the murder of her husband.

– Valentine, Mrs. Eleanor: Held for trial in Denver jail for the murder of her husband.

– Patterson, Mrs. Gertrude: Held for trial in Denver jail for the murder of her husband.

Quinn, Mrs. John M.: Two of her husbands mysteriously murdered in homes. Wife says burglars committed crime. Held in Chicago for investigation.

– Felton, Mrs. Moses: Shot her husband as he lay asleep. Exonerated by Coroner’s jury on her statement man had threatened to kill her before morning.

– James, Mrs. Alma Palmer: Shot her husband as he lay asleep. Defense theory is it was a somnambulistic killing.

– Murray, Mrs. Clara: Shot her husband with cat rifle. Held on daughter’s statements she threatened to kill man if he went to keep engagement with another woman.

Vermilya, Mrs. Louise: Held on charge of murdering policeman Arthur Bisonette by poison. Suspected of  poisoning Richard Smith and two husbands. Pleaded not guilty and is in Chicago jail awaiting trial.

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FULL TEXT: Not since the dark days in the Middle Ages [Renaissance, actually, 1656] when 366 women are said to have formed a Roman Sisterhood of Death, and most of them poisoned husbands, has the world been shocked by so many deaths caused by women as in the United States in the latter days of the year 1911.

Within a few months writers for the press have been called upon to recount an appalling series of crimes. If the cases that obtain extensive publicity are criteria, they force the conclusion that more husbands are being killed by wives by husbands.

It is cited, merely as a curious coincidence, that this increase in the number of women’s crimes comes at a time when women are more active in public affairs than ever before in history. Doubtless it would be unfair to hint at any connection between the two conditions. The fact they exist simultaneously is given for what it is worth. But it cannot be denied that while some women are showing – rather convincingly, it must be admitted – the right of the sex and political leadership, other women are showing with equal conclusiveness the truth of Poet Kipling’s recent dogma, “The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

~ Women in History Often More Ferocious Than the Sterner Sex ~

The long list of recent crimes committed by women or attributed to them bears out a theory held by the criminologists from Lombroso down. And that is that while women are less inclined to acts of violence than men, on account of their physical weakness, when they do become criminals their crimes are characterized by a cruelty and relentlessness not found in male offenders. [Editor's note: In my view, events and crimes, subsequent to 1911, show that men can be as cruel as women: full sex-equality is demonstrated in sociopathy. (St. Estephe)]

When a woman turns to murder she becomes ferocious. The bloodiest murders of the French revolution were not half so cruel as the fierce-eyed, wolfish females that urged them on. [Note: What this sentence identifies is now known as “Proxy violence,” a mode particularly favored by women (as well as political leaders), whereby males are used to do the work.] Mme. Defarge, who sat at the guillotine with her knitting and counted the heads as they fell into the basket, was a true characteristic of them.

In the early biblical days Jael lured Sisera, the friend of her house, to sleep, promising to shield him from his enemies, and as he slept she took a nail and drove it through his temples and into the floor below. And from that day until the last husband murder in today’s paper such crimes when committed by woman have been unspeakably brutal and inhuman.

The idea of a woman turning murderess is so repugnant to the average man that he scarcely can believe it possible. And the story of society’s leniency to women criminals is as old as the mountains of India, as old as the Ganges or the Nile, old as the pyramids with all their secrets. And back of all of it is unwillingness of one man to believe that the women he knows to be infinitely softer, more tender, more abhorrent of violence than he could dabble her delicate hands in human blood. And some singer spoke the truth when he said such things as this:

Cold eyelids, that hide like a jewel
Hard eyes that grow soft for an hour;
The heavy white limbs and the cruel
Red mouth like a venomous flower.
When these are gone by with their glories,
What shall rest of thee then, what remain,
O mystic and somber Dolores,
Our Lady of Pain?

~ Perhaps Leniency Toward Women Murderers Account for It ~

Whether this characteristic leniency of society toward women malefactors is responsible for the Amazing increase of husband murders of late is a matter, of course, of speculation. That criminologists should think so is not to be wondered at.

The Anglo-Saxon people are pretty thoroughly convinced, as a general thing, that capital punishment is a great deterrent of murder. The thing is easy enough to demonstrate, the advocates of the extreme penalty say. Switzerland abolished it and murders increased so rapidly that it was restored as an experiment. Murders immediately decreased in number.

Practically the same thing has been found true in France. For years the guillotine was in disrepute. And while its knife rusted in idleness France gave to the world some of the most appalling murders in the history of crime. The restoration of the death penalty was demanded by popular necessary.

Even in the United States murders have increased in commonwealths that have abolished the gallows. There is a great city on the border line of the two mid-Western states in one of which hanging in the extreme penalty for murder and the other life imprisonment. Newspaper men of that city say they have had to record many more atrocious murders in the latter than in the former.

If this be a true test, as it appears to be, justified by the fact, the criminologists strengthen their theory by applying it to women murderers. In late years but one woman has been put to death by process of law for murder. This woman’s crime was committed in a [sic] Eastern state and was most atrocious. She wished to be rid of her husband, with whom she had quarreled. She sent word she wanted to make up and named a trysting place of their sweetheart days.

~ Texas Case May Become an Issue in Political Campaign ~

After they had kissed and made up they spent several house there. The woman playfully picked up a rope and asked her husband to tie her hands. He did so. She then said she bet she could tied his hands so he couldn’t get away. Laughingly he let her try. She called a half-breed Indian boy to her aid, when they had secured the man’s hands they deliberately murdered him and threw his body into a stream.

Never was a more treacherous-crime committed. But when it was announced the woman was to hang, the Governor of her State was swamped with letters of protest. He withstood the pressure, however, and the sentence of death was executed.

That case was an exception. Everywhere jurors simply refuse to pronounce sentence of death against the women. In the rare cases when they do, popular sympathy compels an executive commutation of sentence. Within the last few weeks, readers of the Post-Dispatch will remember, at least two Coroner’s juries have wept in sympathy with women who have killed their husbands.


In the Forty-Eighth District Court of Texas the action of a judge in compelling the indictment of a woman who had killed her husband will be made a political issue. It is not impossible that the Judge will be defeated for re-election on the strength of it. Popular sympathy is with the woman, and, it must be admitted, that if murder is ever to be justified, the woman had a claim upon his sympathy.

Mrs. Lucy Matheson was a child of 11 years when she met Charles Matheson. She became betrothed to him a year later and was married to him at 15. she was very pretty, a typical, well-bred Texas girl of good family connections. She discovered that, 15 years before, Matheson had married a negress in New Mexico, pretending that the woman was an Indian.

The influence of the negress continued after he married her. One day the wife went to the Black woman’s home, found her husband there and shot him to death.

~ Everything Done at Trial Is Favorable to Accused Women ~

Judge Blanton, at Fort Worth, called a grand jury together and instructed them to look into the case. The jury reported it had no indictments to return. The Judge sternly reminded them of the Matheson affair and ordered them to do their duty, with a hint at citations for contempt if they failed.

Tardily they returned an indictment. The woman was immediately served with a warrant and 100 Abilene citizens, some of them millionaires, offered to sign her bond. Two leading attorneys volunteered to defend her.

The trial was altogether favorable to her. The jurors were selected from the first 20 men called to the box. None was asked if he opposed capital punishment. The woman told her story. There was a hint that the negroes had shot at her and that she fired to protect her own life. It took the jury about ten minutes to reach a verdict of acquittal.

This, of course, is an extraordinary case. If conditions were reversed and a man stood in the same place, he also would have been acquitted in short order by a Texas jury, for the South still recognizes pretty clearly the right of every man – or woman – to preserve the sanctity of the home.

A jury at Ontonogan, Mich., a few days ago returned a verdict of acquittal for Mrs. Laura Stannard, charged with murdering her husband. The woman is a believer in Spiritualism and is convinced that her husband’s spirit was with her throughout the trial.

Stannard died at Greenland, Mich., last March and a post-mortem examination proved that he had died of strychnine poisoning. He was a habitual drinker and his wife was very anxious to break him of this habit. A servant girl testified at the trial that Mrs. Stannard told her she had intended to give her husband a tablet in his coffee to stop his drinking.

~ Three Women in One Jail for Causing Husbands’ Death ~

The theory of the defense was that Stannard took the poison as a stimulant alter he had been on a spree, that he took an overdose and that it killed him. The jury seem to hold to this theory also.

Three women are awaiting trial in adjoining cells in a Denver (Colo.) jail for the murder of their husbands. They are Mrs. Assunta Mollicone, an Italian; Mrs. Eleanor G. Valentine and Mrs. Gertude Patterson. In each case the alleged motive is jealousy or cupidity.

Of these three the Patterson case is the most celebrated. Mrs. Patterson was a poor girl of Sandoval, Ill., when she first met Emil Strouss, a Chicago millionaire. Strouss took a fancy to her because she was extremely beautiful, and arranged to educate her, sending her away to Paris. When she had finished her schooling he called for her and they traveled about Europe together.

After the return to America she met Charles A. Patterson, a former collage athlete. He fell in love with her, she went to Los Angeles, Cal., sent for him and he married her. Chance revealed to him her relations with Strouss.

She confessed everything and he promised to forgive and help her live down the past. She charges that, when they became hard up, he sold her to Strouss for a monetary consideration. She charges that she finally refused to hold up her benefactor for more money and that, in a quarrel, Patterson attacked her and she killed him in self-defense. The killing took place in Denver, where the Pattersons were keeping a select boarding house.

~ Her Two Husbands Killed as They Lay Sleeping Beside Her ~

Several days ago John M. Quinn was shot in his house in Chicago and was killed. His wife, who called the police, said that a burglar had committed the crime. When she was questioned by detectives she said that Quinn was her second husband and that her first was a man named McDonald.

Subsequently it was found that she had been married twice before. Her second husband was a man named Warren Thorpe. Investigation revealed that Thorpe also was shot in his sleep when he and his wife were living in Jackson, Mich., and that the woman said a burglar had done the crime. Her two stories of the two crimes were remarkably alike in detail.

A thorough search was made of the Quinn home. Behind a bathtub was found a revolver, one chamber of which had been discharged.

On the morning of Nov. 9 Moses Felton, a farmer of Macon, Mo., was found dead in bed with a bullet hole through his head. His wife notified the neighbors and said she had killed her husband. She told a pitiful story and the Coroner’s jurors, in exonerating her, wept when they returned the verdict.

She said she and Felton had quarreled about their daughter the night before and that he had threatened to kill her. He had shown her a revolver, she said, laid it near his bed and told her he was going to kill her in the morning.

He lay down and went to sleep the wife added, leaving her to pass the night awake and in terror. Once he awoke he reminded her that she had but a few more hours to live. She waited until he dropped off to slumber again, she said. Then she slipped out of bed, got the revolver and killed him.

~ Two Recent St. Louis Cases of Interest to Criminologists ~

St. Louis has produced two recent cases. Early on the morning of April 28, Mrs. Alma Palmer James shot and killed her husband. Leo James, as he lay asleep in their flat at 4457A Lexington avenue. The affair has never been satisfactorily explained. When asked about the killing the woman had but one answer, which she repeated over and over again in a dull way: “I don’t care.”

At that time the theory was that Mrs. James killed her husband because she had been infected with a serious disease and thought he was responsible. This was disproved later, and the theory of the defense today is that it was a somnambulistic crime, that she intended to kill herself, sat down by her husband to think it over and fell asleep. The report of a pistol awoke her and she found that, while she slept, she had shot her husband instead of herself.

A St. Louis Coroner’s jury wept when it held Mrs. Clara Murray for the death of her husband, who was shot while in his home, with a Christmas gift cat rifle [nickname for a .22 caliber rifle]. The woman’s daughter, 9 years old, was the principal witness. She said her mother learned her father had made an engagement with another woman, that her mother told him if he went out she would shoot him, that he went out and the mother did shoot him.

A doctor who was passing the house told the jury that when he reached the place soon after Murray fell, his wife had her arms about him and was kissing him, saying, “Darling, wasn’t it all in fun?”

“No, the dying man said, “you shot me deliberately.”

Neighbors testified Mrs. Murray had been drinking whisky on the afternoon of the killing.

~ Recent Cases Show Difficulty of Convicting Accused Women ~

The difficulty in getting convictions when women are defendants was shown in the recent trial of Mrs. Zoe Runge McRee at Oplousas, La. Mrs. McRee, a married woman, shot and killed Allen Garland, a young neighbor, who was calling at her home. Her story was calling at her home. Her story of it was that Garland made improper proposals to her and that she shot in defense of her honor.

The prosecution contended that she and Garland had been friendly for a long time. It offered evidence tending to show that Garland was shot from behind as he sat in a chair. The trial resulted in a hung jury.

Taking these cases in connection with the recent accusations against Nurse Vermilya in Chicago, accused of using poison for half a dozen murders, more or less, and of another nurse, in New Orleans [Annie Crawford], accused of poisoning members of her own family, the criminal activities charged to women within the last few weeks present an amazing and startling ensemble.

[“Why Are So Many Wives Killing Their Husbands? -- Ten Cases, With Such Unusual Features as to Attract National Attention, Within a Few Weeks, Emphasize a Remarkable Condition Which May Be Both a Development of the New Woman Movement of the Baleful Fruit of the Extraordinary Leniency Shown in the Courts of Women Accused of Murder. – Public Attitude in Such Cases Shown When St. Louis Coroner’s Juries Weep With Two Fair Defendants and Texas Judge Has to Force Indictment of Another. ” St. Louis Dispatch (Mo.), Nov. 19, 1911, part 2, p. 1]

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