Date of Award:

2017

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

Victoria Grieve

Abstract

This thesis explores the relationship between the media, murderous women, and the concept of separate spheres. Murderous women challenged established gender norms. They did not conform to the societal expectations of their gender, therefore, they were not considered “normal.” As such, women like Alice Mitchell, Jane Toppan, and Amy Archer Gilligan became objects of media, medical, and public curiosity. As defined by medical science and society, newspapers policed the boundaries of “normality” by sensationalizing the lives, actions, and trials of deadly damsels. Newspaper coverage of murderous women reminded the public of the consequences of “abnormality” and non-conformity. This thesis argues that sensationalized stories of lethal ladies between 1890 and 1920 shaped public perceptions of gender, crime, mental illness, and substantiated the perceived “need” for separate spheres. Furthermore, it gives a voice to a group of historical women who existed on the fringes of society.

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History Commons

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