The Girls Of Murder City
"The prospect of women attorneys before all-male juries was
almost as terrifying as interracial coupling. One Virginia newspaper,
commenting on the situation in Chicago after the state Supreme Court's
ruling on Sabella's case, wrote that 'now that fair women attorneys,
full of feminine wiles, have been added to the equation, conviction of
pretty lady killers is hardly even hoped for.'"
Contrary to popular opinion, I do not review every book I read.
About once a year there's one, usually quite technical and information
dense, that eludes my ability to summerize and describe. Every few
months I read a book I have no intention to review just for the fun of
it. When I found Douglas Perry's The Girls of Murder City I was sure
it would fall into that category--a guilty pleasure to skim and
return. Boy, was I wrong!
Perry takes readers back to 1924 Chicago, a city with a wild and
wicked reputation. Alcohol flowed (prohibition, remember?), gangs
ruled, and beautiful women got away with murder. Literally. There
had been a streak of thirty-five women acquitted of husband killing.
Some folks wondered if a white, reasonably attractive woman could be
convicted of homicide in Cook County.
That year women accused of shooting in crimes of passion took up
much of the newspapers' (Can you imagine that concept--multiple rival
dailies--in today's media merging world?) prime space. Reporters were
in stiff competition to get the hottest reader captivating insider
stories. Trial stories often focused as much on defendents' outfits
as on their testimonies.
The story line of these sensational trials is riveting--well
worth the price of the book. But the feminist with an interest in
history will glean a whole lot more. All male juries (the only kind
then) could be swayed to acquit by lawyers and defendents who played
on their biases. Not all women were created equal. While well off
white women could get off, older, poorer, and unattractive women,
especially black women, could not reap benefit of gender.
Basically I think The Girls of Murder City makes a grand summer
read whether one is interested in gripping real life drama or social
issues or feminist history. I know I was caught--hook, line, and
sinker--before I'd finished the first page.
On a personal note, for three weeks UMaine was lucky to have Young
African Leaders around. It was so much fun spending time with
them...especially dancing with them. They are so intelligent and
charming and motivated and gracious, really great citizen ambassadors.
A great big shout out goes out to the Young African Leaders whom I
hope really enjoyed their stay in Maine.
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