Presentation on theme: " An exhibition from the collections of the John Hay Library April 1 - May 15 1996 It focuses on sexual scandals and murders in 19th century America."— Presentation transcript:
An exhibition from the collections of the John Hay Library April 1 - May 15 1996 It focuses on sexual scandals and murders in 19th century America that involved women in a significant way: as victims, as perpetrators, or as involved bystanders.
Most noteworthy, perhaps, is how closely many of these events mirror contemporary issues concerning women, sexuality, and murder. The scandal deaths mentioned in the exibition of John Hay Library are listed as;
Sarah cornell Maria bickford Ellen jewett Mary rogers Alice a. Bowlsby Abby macFarland Beecher tilton scandal
Sarah Cornell, an unmarried 30 year old factory worker in Fall River, Massachusetts, was found hanging near a haystack on a local farm. Cornell had been a member of Avery's church in Lowell, Massachusetts, when she worked in a factory there, but had been expelled from the church for "lewdness and lying." Cornell met with Avery at a Methodist camp meeting in Thompson, Connecticut, in an effort to persuade Avery to destroy the letters of confession she had written, which were preventing her joining any other local Methodist churches.
Avery had agreed to destroy the letters on the condition that she have sex with him, which she did. Cornell later discovered that she was pregnant. When she was made an autopsy, they saw that there were signs of violance despite her 5 months pregnancy. After long trials the guy was freed and even he was cleared by a Methodist Church.
"The Tirrell case is one of the triumphs of [the lawyer] Rufus Choate, who convinced the jury that his client did not cut the throat of Mrs. Bickford, or, if he did, he did it in his sleep... The life and death of Mrs. Maria Bickford, a beautiful female who was in-humanly murdered in the moral and religious city of Boston... by Albert J. Tirrell, her paramour. Says Silas Estabrook in the Haris collection of American Poertry and Plays.
"The 1836 murder of Ellen Jewett, very beautiful prostitute in a house of ill fame in New York, was one of the sensations of the times. [Richard] Robinson, a nineteen-year-old youth and sweetheart of the girl, was identified as her companion of the evening. Miss Jewett had been struck with a hatchet, and an attempt had been made to burn the premises. Supported at court by young men who donned what came to be called 'Frank Rivers' caps, he was in turn reviled by the respectable classes who saw Robinson as a representative of the new 'sporting' urban males whose sexual style and flamboyant attitude flew in the face of conventional society." (Srebnick)
"In the summer of 1841, Mary Rogers [a well-known young woman who had worked at the counter of John Anderson's cigar store on Broadway] disappeared without a trace from her New York City boarding house. Three days later, her body, badly bruised and waterlogged, was found floating in the shallow waters of the Hudson River just a few feet from the Jersey shore. Her story, parlayed into a long celebrated unsolved mystery, became grist for penny presses, social reformers, and politicians alike, and an impetus for popular literature, including Edgar Allen Poe's pioneering detective story The mystery of Marie Roget.
"Rogers represented an emerging class of women who took advantage of the greater economic and sexual opportunities available to them in urban America; her death became a touchstone for the voicing of mid-nineteenth century concerns over sexual license, the changing roles of women, law and order, and abortion. Rogers' death, first thought due to a murderous gang of rapists and later tacitly understood to be the result of an ill-performed abortion, quickly became a source of popular entertainment, a topic of political debate, and an inspiration to public policy. Two important pieces of legislation were passed in 1845: the New York City Police Reform Act which effectively modernized the city's system of policing, the New York State law criminalizing abortion.
Alice lived with her two sisters and her mother; all four women worked as dressmakers. Her body was discovered at the New York City train station stuffed into a trunk that was to have been shipped to Chicago. "Though [Jacob] Rosenzweig was charged with murder, the case is actually one of abortion. He was found guilty of manslaughter." (McDade) The seducer was a relative called “Walter Conklin. Bumm…
"[Daniel] McFarland was a rascal and drunkard whose wife Abby finally divorced him, planning to marry [Albert] Richardson, a popular author. Richardson was shot by McFarland in the office of the Tribune, and on his deathbed was married to Abby McFarland. In that event we see that you can get away with murder if you claim to be defending the American home.
The Beecher-Tilton scandal is an example of a nineteenth- century sexual scandal that did not involve murder. The scandal demonstrates, however, the sort of life- and reputation-destroying events that not a few murders have been committed to avoid. It was charged that, in the late 1860s, Ward Beecher had conducted an affair with Elizabeth Tilton, wife of Theodore Tilton. Both Tiltons were members of Beecher's Plymouth Church. In 1873, Plymouth Church withdrew Tilton's membership in the church, owing to his attacks on Beecher. Theodore Tilton, unable to earn a living because of the scandal, ultimately moved to Paris. Beecher continued to be popular, but never again received the widespread uncritical adulation that had been his prior to the scandal.
"She is more to be pitied than censured She is more to be helped than despised She is only a lassie who ventured On life's stormy path ill advised Do not scorn her with words fierce and bitter Do not laugh at her shame and downfall For a moment stop and consider That a man was the cause of it all." 1894 song by William B. Gray