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Amelia Dyer: Angel Maker: The Woman Who Murdered Babies for Money Hardcover – 1 Oct 2007
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Gruesome. Grizzly. Gripping --Martina Cole --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Both married with children, Allison Vale and Allison Rattle are also the co-authors of, among other books, How to Boil a Flamingo, Mothers' Wit and How to Push a Perambulator. They both live in Somerset.
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It highlights the scale of infanticide in ninteenth-century Britain and opens up an area of this country's social history that has been ignored. If you're interested in true crime and/or popular history then you must read this book because Dyer was more prolific than any other killer in British history - she was a contemporary of Jack the Ripper and her crimes are much worse, but she has been largely forgotten until now.
One of this book's great strengths is the skill with which it thrusts the reader into Dyer's world, the sounds, the smells, the physical descriptions, and there is lots of human interest: Dyer and those with whom she comes into contact are brought vividly to life.
I read a lot of true crime/popular history and it is rare for me to award five stars, but in this case I feel it is well deserved: it is the most entertaining and thought-provoking account I have seen in a long time.
Amelia Dyer was tried and hanged in 1896, she was found guilty of just one murder but it is thought she may have been responsible for up to 400 deaths. Dyer trained as a nurse, and it was her nursing skills that were to come in so handy in her next 'career' - that of a 'baby farmer' - a woman who took in unwanted infants, for money.
In Victorian Britain, unmarried mothers were stigmatised and unable to get any financial help, the recently passed Poor Law had taken away the financial obligations of fathers, so many of these women were desperate. So, women like Dyer stepped in and became baby farmers - for a fee they would take the babies, often with the promise that they would care for them as their own. Dyer, however, just saw these poor children as a way to make money and most of the infants were left to strarve to death, some of them were throttled within hours of coming into her home.
This book is an excellently written account of Dyer's life, her career and the subsequent police investigation and court case. Although non-fiction, it is never tedious or stuffy and is written almost as though it were a novel.
This really is a fascinating, compelling and incredibly sad story. How many times do we hark back to the 'good old days', insisting that child cruelty and neglect, drug and alcohol addiction etc are all on rise? Reading this account of Victorian England makes one realise that things back then were so much worse. How many unmarried mothers these days have to pass over their newborn baby to an unknown person?
This book relays the life story of Amelia Dyer, born Amelia Hobley in 1838, the youngest of 5 children born to a relatively comfortable family for the times. The events surrounding the deaths of the children are truly horrifying. These children were entrusted to her care, often for  pounds to take full responsibility for the rest of their lives thereby relieving their families of any further involvement. The authors describe how many of these were drugged and starved to death. Amelia appears to have started this career by acting as a midwife who for a fee ensured that babies were stillborn before moving on to placing adverts in papers offering to take care of children for a premium. Amelia plyed her trade, intersperced with time in prison and mental asylums for many years before finally being investigated fully in 1896.
This book also goes some way to explain why single women were persuaded that answering the adverts was the answer to their problems, orphanages would often stipulate that their charges be true orphans and a single woman with a child could not easily find employment and ensure their child was cared for. The lack of money was not helped by an act passed in 1830 which meant a single woman could not claim money for the child's upkeep from the father.
A sad but informative book about a period of history where real poverty enabled such a foul trade to flourish.
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Most recent customer reviews
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in this kind of crime...
It's a real eye opener....