Detecting the Murderess: Newspaper Representations of Women Convicted of Murder in New York City, London, and Ireland, 1880–1914

  • Rian Sutton
  • Lynsey BlackEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Histories of Policing, Punishment and Justice book series (PHPPJ)


Women who kill violate societal norms and provoke public disquiet. The murderess has therefore tended to attract intense and sensationalist press coverage. This chapter explores the pseudo-forensic analysis of the figure of the ‘murderess’, engaging with newspaper coverage of her appearance, demeanour, and emotion. Drawing on research into press depictions of women sentenced to death for the murder of an adult in New York City, London, and Ireland, from 1880 to 1914, the chapter outlines how these features were assessed to gauge whether the murderess could be detected. The chapter draws on the popular appeal of criminal anthropology and New Journalism in this period to examine popular conceptions of the murderess, and techniques by which public anxiety towards such a figure was neutralised.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Maynooth UniversityMaynoothIreland

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