Women Who Kill Men
California Courts, Gender, and the Press
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
Series: Law in the American West
We owe a great deal to Keith Pacholl of the University of West Georgia. Keith read the entire manuscript and made invaluable suggestions. Karen Lystra of California State University, Fullerton, read the manuscript with an eye to the meaning of love letters in trials and American culture...
Introduction: The Feminine Side of Women on Trial
This study of women on trial for homicide examines newspaper coverage of these proceedings and the constructions of their attorneys in California cases, 1870–1958. Our focus is on the representations of women, case by case, in the newspapers and in trial-court settings, and the rhetoric of attorneys. We make...
1. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the Sanest of Them All?: The Insanity Defense in Court and in the Press
Postbellum California put the gold rush, the Mexican War, and the Civil War experiences behind to build a new image of maturing economic life, bucolic agricultural enterprise, and cultural sophistication. California in the nineteenth century boasted two major cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In southern...
2. Good Riddance: Justifiable Homicides of Enemy Deviants
California’s nineteenth century featured several cases in which women, like Katie Cook, found themselves driven to rid their households, if not civilization, of enemy deviants. In 1901, for example, Clara A. Wellman shot her husband through the heart with a rifle, ending three years of terror. Clara...
3. Toward the New Woman: Feminine Wiles on Trial
The Victorianism of the long nineteenth century gave way to the “new woman” of the 1920s. Fashion, although arguably frivolous, clearly documents this change. The stylish turn-of-the-century Victorian woman’s hourglass figure required a tightly laced whalebone corset exerting twenty-five pounds of pressure per square inch on her ribcage. To prevent fainting...
4. The Haves and the Have Nots: Women on Trial during the Great Depression
The Great Depression of the 1930s endangered the material dreams of many Californians living outside the prosperity of Hollywood’s movie industry and the corporate factories in the fields of California agribusiness. It was a period characterized by labor unrest with agricultural strikes in the Imperial Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, and other centers of corporate farming. Longshoremen successfully orchestrated a general...
5. War Women of the 1940s: Evolutionary Women in Revolutionary Times
World War II pulled the United States out of the Great Depression, created new employment opportunities for women, and made the country a world power. Women went to work in defense industries, joined the armed services, and flew military aircraft as Women Airforce Service Pilots. They helped...
6. Celebrity on Trial: Tinseltown Tarnished
American spectators love a good show, and the trial of a celebrity is the best spectacle. Thane Rosenbaum argues, “The courtroom as theater is as old as ‘Oedipus Rex.’ We have come to organize our lives around the law, and our cultural consumption is overwhelmingly fed by the calories of courtrooms.”1 In 1955 Broadway...
The newspaper stories, editorials, and statements of counsel reveal much about the image of women caught up in California’s criminal justice administration system. The trials involving middle- and upper-class deceased men and their alleged slayers highlighted dominant cultural norms of the times. This culture reflected the signs and practices of journalists and lawyers...