on 26 September 2012
Did Beatrice Page murder her taciturn and violent husband, sheep farmer Harry Pace? The question obsessed England for years during the 1920s. The prosecution said Mrs. Pace, a working-class mother of five, had slowly done her husband in with increasing doses of arsenic. The defense pointed out that the presence of arsenic in the home was hardly incriminating, since sheep dip at that time contained dangerous levels of the stuff. During the courtroom proceedings, the accusations both against Beatrice and her late husband grew ever more lurid, and the case became a massive sensation throughout England. Adding to the poignancy was the fact that the fate of five children, including a baby, hung in the balance. When Pace left court appearances, her car would be surrounded by crowds of weeping (mostly female) supporters.
Yet the Pace case was more than a headline-grabber. The long interrogations of Mrs. Pace prompted outrage at Scotland Yard's 'third-degree' tactics, contributing to an emerging wave of civil-rights activism in 1920s England. The trial also highlighted the binds of economic dependence and discrimination which kept working-class women trapped in abusive marriages. John Carter Wood writes with verve and elegance, weaving insights into the broader social ramifications of this trial without losing the thread courtroom drama that makes the book such a compelling read. He has also done much original research, clearing up questions that previous accounts left unanswered and providing dozens of illustrations, some of which have come from previously-inaccessible private archives. The result is a vivid portrayal not just of one woman's fate, but of a society in transition. Highly recommended!
on 13 December 2012
Takes us to a period with very different mores. Incidentally it highlights the care and elaboration of any halfway good legal system All those who want such 'social, and other services in our country please note. They cost money. All those in a society are morally bound to contribute are they not? Amazon and its tax-lawyers please note.