Arsenic Under the Elms: Murder in Victorian New Haven (Hardback)
  • Arsenic Under the Elms: Murder in Victorian New Haven (Hardback)
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Arsenic Under the Elms: Murder in Victorian New Haven (Hardback)

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£32.00
Hardback 288 Pages / Published: 30/10/1999
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A high-profile murder can function as a mirror of an era, and attorney and crime researcher Virginia McConnell provides a fascinating view of Connecticut in Victorian times, as glimpsed through the unrelated, but disturbingly similar murders of two young women near New Haven in the late 1800s. The colorful characters involved in the commission, investigation, and prosecution of these crimes emerge as real, vibrant individuals, and their stories, compelling in themselves, reveal much about Victorian sex and marriage, drugs from arsenic to aphrodisiacs, early forensic medicine, and 19th-century courtroom procedures.

Both victims in these sensational killings were young women from the New Haven area. The first, Mary Stannard, was a 22-year-old, unmarried mother who worked as a domestic and believed herself to be pregnant for a second time. The man accused of her murder, Reverend Herbert Hayden, was a married lay minister whose seduction of Mary was fairly common knowledge. Upon hearing from Mary of her pregnancy, he assured her he would obtain some quick medicine for an abortion and they agreed to meet in the woods. Mary's body was found clubbed and poisoned, her throat slit; chemical tests revealed she had been given 90 grains of arsenic. Hayden's wife perjured herself on the witness stand to protect him (subsequently becoming a darling of the press) and despite convincing forensic testimony from Yale professors, the minister ultimately went free.

Three years later, another woman of relatively low social stature was found floating face-down in Long Island Sound off West Haven. This strikingly pretty 20-year-old daughter of a cigar-maker came to be known as The Belle of New Haven, and though she had been seen frequently in the company of young people of questionable character, had never been a loose girl. The autopsy of Jennie Cramer revealed that she had not drowned, but had been savagely raped and poisoned with arsenic just before her death. Three people were put on trial for her murder: two scions of the wealthy Malley department store family, and their prostitute friend from New York. It was believed that the victim was killed to prevent her disclosure of the date rape by one of the young men, but they were likewise acquitted. Arsenic Under the Elms meticulously reviews the evidence, the personalities involved, and the society that produced them, resulting in a mesmerizing contribution to the literature of true crime.

Publisher: ABC-CLIO
ISBN: 9780275962975
Number of pages: 288
Weight: 581 g
Dimensions: 234 x 156 x 17 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"Attorney/college teacher McConnell's debut is an accomplished re-creation of two notorious murders of young women in the rural gentility of 1880s Connecticut, with a remarkable sense for the inequities and dark places of that vanished era....Her crisp prose and comprehensive research make for a lively presentation of many remarkable details as she unfolds a disturbing tale of class-oriented gender discrimination and dramatizes the state criminal justice system in its infancy....An intimate, compelling portrait of seamy and disturbing (thus 'forgotten') aspects of the Gilded Age that, in its narrative of yearningly naive young women and socially respectable male predators, offers a sobering augury of our own violent, sexually stratified times."-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Her painstaking reconstruction, both of the murders of these two young women and of the trials in which their alleged killers were acquitted, reveals fascinating insights about law, justice, and the position of women in post-Civil War Connecticut. Recommended."-Library Journal
"Ms. McConnell pulls no punches as she dissects the cases and presents her arguments on who she thinks was really guilty. She also wonderfully recreates the dialogue and lifestyles of 1880 Connecticut."-New York Law Journal
"The author places the events firmly in cultural context, providing a fascinating glimpse into the arenas of late-19th-century law, journalism, morality, and social structure. A superb piece of historical detection that will gratify true-crime buffs."-Booklist
?The author places the events firmly in cultural context, providing a fascinating glimpse into the arenas of late-19th-century law, journalism, morality, and social structure. A superb piece of historical detection that will gratify true-crime buffs.?-Booklist
?Arsenic Under the Elms meticulously reviews the evidence, the personalities involved, and the society that produced them, resulting in a contribution to the literature of true crime...all the more compelling for being fact rather than ficition...?-Crime & Justice International
?Ms. McConnell pulls no punches as she dissects the cases and presents her arguments on who she thinks was really guilty. She also wonderfully recreates the dialogue and lifestyles of 1880 Connecticut.?-New York Law Journal
?Her painstaking reconstruction, both of the murders of these two young women and of the trials in which their alleged killers were acquitted, reveals fascinating insights about law, justice, and the position of women in post-Civil War Connecticut. Recommended.?-Library Journal
?Attorney/college teacher McConnell's debut is an accomplished re-creation of two notorious murders of young women in the rural gentility of 1880s Connecticut, with a remarkable sense for the inequities and dark places of that vanished era....Her crisp prose and comprehensive research make for a lively presentation of many remarkable details as she unfolds a disturbing tale of class-oriented gender discrimination and dramatizes the state criminal justice system in its infancy....An intimate, compelling portrait of seamy and disturbing (thus 'forgotten') aspects of the Gilded Age that, in its narrative of yearningly naive young women and socially respectable male predators, offers a sobering augury of our own violent, sexually stratified times.?-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Arsenic Under the Elms meticulously reviews the evidence, the personalities involved, and the society that produced them, resulting in a contribution to the literature of true crime...all the more compelling for being fact rather than ficition..."-Crime & Justice International
"Murder cases from the Victorian past fascinate us because they illustrate how fatal incitements of sex, lust, debauchery, frustration, and fear--all too familiar in the major murder cases of today--played out on the stage of a bygone era. Despite the wide attention these murders received in the press, readers of that day were in ignorance of many of the facts that Virginia McConnell's careful research has unearthed for us. Where pieces of the puzzle remain lacking, she offers her carefully constructed conjectures--an intriguing exercise in which the reader themselves will also wish to participate."-Patterson Smith Antiquarian bookseller specializing in criminal history
"Absolutely spellbinding! Like the faded pages of a family album brought into clear focus, McConnell delivers a mesmerizing true tale of murder from a seemingly more innocent time. Through the author's wonderful rendering, a story that has quietly begged to be told for more than a century is reclaimed. Arsenic Under the Elms is a haunting book."-Gregg Olsen, Author of Starvation Heights
"Here are two fascinating crime stories, all the more compelling for being fact rather than fiction, both involving riveting trial scenes and both filled with revelations about law, justice, and the position of women in post-Civil War Connecticut. the author is both historian and detective, and she writes with verve and conviction."-Robin W. Winks, Yale University author of Modus Oparandi
"Drawing on exhaustive research in late-19th-century newspapers and popular crime pamphlets, Virginia A. McConnell has meticulously reconstructed the mysterious murders of two young women in the vicinity of New Haven, Connecticut--and shrewdly anatomized the botched prosecutions of their probable killers. With deft sketches of such memorable Victorian characters as a hard-working unwed mother from an impoverished rural family, a lecherous Methodist preacher who never quite mastered his Latin, the flirtatious daughter of a German immigrant tobacconist, and the effeminate only son of New Haven's wealthiest merchant, Arsenic Under the Elms will engage social historians, legal scholars, lovers of New England "local color," and True Crime aficionados alike."-Daniel A. Cohen Associate Professor of History Florida International University

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