The Trials of Laura Fair: Sex, Murder, and Insanity in the Victorian West

The Trials of Laura Fair: Sex, Murder, and Insanity in the Victorian West

by Carole Haber

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On November 3, 1870, on a San Francisco ferry, Laura Fair shot a bullet into the heart of her married lover, A. P. Crittenden. Throughout her two murder trials, Fair's lawyers, supported by expert testimony from physicians, claimed that the shooting was the result of temporary insanity caused by a severely painful menstrual cycle. The first jury disregarded such testimony, choosing instead to focus on Fair's disreputable character. In the second trial, however, an effective defense built on contemporary medical beliefs and gendered stereotypes led to a verdict that shocked Americans across the country. In this rousing history, Carole Haber probes changing ideas about morality and immorality, masculinity and femininity, love and marriage, health and disease, and mental illness to show that all these concepts were reinvented in the Victorian West.
Haber's book examines the era's most controversial issues, including suffrage, the gendered courts, women's physiology, and free love. This notorious story enriches our understanding of Victorian society, opening the door to a discussion about the ways in which reputation, especially female reputation, is shaped.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469607597
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 08/01/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 328
File size: 9 MB

About the Author

Carole Haber is professor of history and dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Laura Fair and the Unwritten Law 1

1 The She-Devil Known as Mrs. Laura Fair 11

2 The Case for the Prosecution 49

3 The Defense Responds 79

4 The Appeal 123

5 The Second Trial 147

6 The Fair Lunatic 177

Epilogue: The Many Faces of Laura Fair 207

Notes 229

Bibliography 289

Index 299

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From the Publisher

In this absorbing account of a notorious San Francisco murder, Carole Haber probes the multiple versions of the female defendant created by prosecution and defense attorneys to explain why she shot her lover. Haber then goes beyond these competing ideas of gender to offer an ingenious explanation of the crime that has puzzled mystery lovers for well over a century.—Patricia Cline Cohen, University of California at Santa Barbara

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