Thursday, February 15, 2018

1912: “A Man Is Killed By A Woman Every Day!” - Petticoats Confer Immunity

FULL TEXT from October 6, 1912: 

Increase of Homicides by Women. Especially in West and South. Accompanied by Growing Unwillingness of Juries to Convict Female Offenders – Petticoats Confer Immunity – Men Usually Victims – Prominent Attorney Analyzes Stagecraft by Which Women Defendants Work on Sympathy of Male Jurors – Three Recent Cases in St. Louis in Which Women Were Acquitted ----

Some future historian of the feminist revolution will attempt to explain why the rise of woman towards equal suffrage and economic independence was concomitant, in the first part of the twentieth century, with a remarkable crescendo of feminine crime, particularly murder; and will trace the curious process by which the human savage, who more than any other mammal held his females in abject servility, became gradually so uxorious that he not only failed to avenge homicidal rebellions effected against his own sex by his former underlings, but, through the voice of his juries, even pardoned and justified them in their crimes.

The murder of men by women, is proved by criminal records to be steadily on the increase, especially in the South and West; and this deplorable phenomenon accompanies, and is no doubt partly due to, a waxing unwillingness on the part of men to convict any woman of a capital offense. The defendant may be ignorant, homely and and depraved; she may be in all respects inferior to the average man and even to criminal man; her guilt of a cowardly and revolting crime may be obvious to every impartial mind; but her petticoats hedge her about with a mysterious divinity which practically assures her of immunity. It is declared that on an average a man is slain by a woman every day in the United States, and that scarcely one conviction occurs in 50 such cases.

The historian will point out that, while women were on every hand asserting their equality with men in nearly every field, those accused of crime instantly betook themselves for defense to the ancient fortress of the sex – male pity aroused by woman’s weakness; and that the defendants hastened to emphasize their pose of hopelessness with every means afforded by dress, falsehood and tears.

The annalist will relate that dexterous lawyers her husband to death: Women are spiteful. They would show no mercy to a woman. They would take pleasure in convicting me.

Mrs. Louise Lindloff, indicted for seven deaths by poison: I want justice and woman have been pretty successful to getting justice from juries composed of men. I want no women to sit on the jury that tries me.

Lulu Blackwell, charged with killing Charles Vaughn: It would be foolish to consent to have a jury of women try me. I want a man’s jury to sit on my case.

Margaret McCabe, charged with killing Edward Lee: No women for me. If the State’s Attorney wants women juries, that is reason enough why I should not want them.

Elizabeth Buchanan, charged with the killing of Josephine Rice: I would never consent to be tried by women.

In a recent interview Attorney Wayman skillfully dissected the mental processes which actuate male jurors holding the fate of women criminals in their hands. His text was the case of Mrs. Minnie Bernstein of Chicago, who was accused of murdering her sleeping husband, and against whom, according to Wayman, the evidence was so clear that, “had a man been the defendant, he would have been convicted by any jury in the world.” Nevertheless, Mrs. Bernstein was acquitted, the jury declaring she was insane when she killed her husband.

“In acquitting Mrs. Bernstein,” said the attorney, “the jury gave a typical illustration of the attitudes of American juries towards women charged with murder. Mrs. Bernstein is not pretty, yet in her widow’s weeds there was much in her appearance that would appeal to any man of susceptible nature and tender heart.

“She, like all women, was a sufficiently clever actress to make the most of her looks and the dramatic possibilities of her situation. With her pallid face and dark eyes she looked wistful, helpless and appealing. At times she wept into a dainty lace handkerchief – this is a fetching trick o’ women defendants – and again she bowed her head upon her arms while her shoulders shook with sobs.

“The ordinary man such as the juror is feels sure that this woman who looks so much like the woman who looks so much like the women of his own family must have been abused and hounded and driven insane by the cruelty of the man she killed. So in almost all cases the juror, unsophisticated in the subtle psychology of the woman criminal, has made up his mind long before he retires to the jury room that the woman on trial committed her crime during some violent brainstorm that rendered her irresponsible.

“There is but one remedy. That is, to give women the right to serve on juries.

“Only a woman can understand a woman. Only a woman can can be uninfluenced by sentiment. Only a woman would punish a woman guilty of murder. Only a woman could construe the law impartially where a woman is concerned. A jury of women would look upon a woman criminal with cold, sexless, unsentimental eyes and return a verdict in accordance with the merits of the case.”

Wayman pointed out that in the last nine years in Chicago 38 women charged with murder, 20 of whom were accused of killing men, were acquitted. During the same period only seven women arraigned for killing men were found guilty. Wayman declared that if men had been accused they would have been hanged in nearly every instance.

Mrs. Rene B. Morrow, a poetess and writer, was acquitted only a few weeks ago of the murder of her husband, who was found dead on the back porch of their home in the fashionable Hyde  Park district, Chicago, with two bullets in his body.The State showed that they were estranged and had been heard in violent quarrel on the night of Morrow’s death.

While Mrs. Dora McDonald and Webster Guerin, with whom she was engaged in a Hason [sic], were alone in a Chicago office, Guerin was shot and instantly killed. The defense was that he shot himself while in a scuffle with the woman for possession of a pistol. She was acquitted.

Lucille McLeod, a girl still in her teens, and William Nieman Jr. were found in a Chicago hotel, the man dying and the girl severely wounded. She recovered, was tried for murder, and asserted that the shooting was done by Nieman. She was acquitted.

Mrs. Minnie, a trained nurse, was arraigned for the murder of her husband, who was asphyxiated by gas flowing from a range in a room adjoining that in which he slept. He had insurance of several thousands of dollars on his life. A jury found that his death was due to murder, but acquitted his widow.

Mrs. Jane Quinn was arraigned a few weeks ago on a charge of killing her husband, who was shot as he lay asleep in bed. Two former husbands, heaving insured, had died under mysterious circumstances. Mrs. Quinn said her husband had been killed by a burglar, and was acquitted.

Mr. Louise Vermilya, charged with murdering nine persons with poison, was arraigned for the death of Arthur Bisonette. The arraignment resulted in a disagreement of the jury. She is to be tried a second time for the murder of Richard T. Smith.

One of the most theatrical trials in St. Louis was that of Mrs. Dora Doxey, accused of poisoning William J. Erder, whom she was charged with having married bigamously and whose insurance she collected. Despite a formidable array of circumstantial evidence she was acquitted.

Mrs. Clara Murray of St. Louis, charged with killing her husband, pleaded that she did not know the rifle she pointed at him was loaded, and that, anyhow, he had treated her cruelly. She was acquitted in February.

Mrs. Alma James was tried in St. Louis last March for shooting her husband, Leo James, as he lay asleep in their flat. The jurors, who significantly bound themselves not to discuss for publication the manner in which they reached a decision, reported the following double-barreled verdict:

“We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty on the ground that she was insane at the time she committed the offense as charged in the indictment, and she has at this time entirely and completely recovered from such insanity.”

Mrs. Moses Felton of Mexico, Mo., who shot her husband while he lay asleep, was exonerated by a Coroner’s jury on her plea of self-defense.

Mrs. Lucy Matheson of Fort Worth, Tex., traced her husband to the house of a negress and killed him. A jury freed her in 10 minutes.

Mrs. Assunta Mollicone was not brought to trial in Denver for killing her husband after she told the Prosecuting Attorney Mollicone had misused her and that she shot in self-defense.

Mrs. Frances O’Shaughnessy shot her husband in New York “to save his soul” and was freed on the ground that she was insane.

Mrs. Laura Stannard of Ontonogan, Mich., was acquitted by a jury of the murder of her husband, who died from poison administered in a drink cure.

Mrs. Sudall shot her husband in the back and was acquitted of murder by a San Francisco jury.

A plea of self-defense acquitted Mrs. Eleanor Valentine of Denver, who shot her husband.

Mrs. Maude Lee Allen of  Sherman, Tex., shot her husband five times. Arrested for murder, she worked on the sympathies of a grand jury with a plea of self-defense until the jurors voted “no bill” and took up a collection of $12 for her among themselves.

Only a month ago the spectators in a court at Harrodsburg, Ky., applauded for 30 minutes when the Judge dismissed Mrs. Dora Russell on a charge of murdering her husband. She testified that she met Russell at the door and on declaring he would killer and the children, whipped a revolver from behind her back and shot him four times.

Mrs. Lizzie Brooks of Fort Worth killed Mrs. Mary Binford, with whom Brooks was said to have been intimate. At her trial, after resisting how her home had been shattered, Mrs. Brooks’ attorney closed his argument to the jury by singing “Home, Sweet Home.” The defendant was instantly acquitted.

Other women charged with murdering men and acquitted in recent years include Mrs. Gertrude G. Patterson, Estelle Stout, Mrs. Antoinette Tolla, the Baroness de Mansey, Florence Burns, Nan Patterson, Josephine Terranova and Mrs. Annie Birdsong.

[“A Man Is Killed By A Woman Every Day!” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Mo.), Oct. 6, 1912, Sunday Magazine, p. 3]














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