TWAIN-L Archives

Mark Twain Forum


Options: Use Forum View

Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Hilton Obenzinger <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 12 Feb 2006 11:03:53 -0800
text/plain (28 lines)
Dan Sickle's insanity defense was successful because it seemed
jealous rage of a man betrayed by his wife made sense.  Using Sickle
as a precedent, the same defense was used for Laura Fair in San
Francisco after she killed her lover who led her on for eight years
that he would get a divorce and then didn't.  She shot him on the
Oakland ferry after following him when he picked up his wife at the
train station.  The Laura Fair case was much of the basis for the
character of Laura in "The Gilded Age."  Laura Fair was acquitted in
her second trial, after appeal -- although Laura Fair did lecture in
Sacramento after her trial, she did not die of a broken heart, as did
Laura in the novel.  Twain was outraged about the jury system --
after all, many witnesses had seen the murder, and even Governor
Stanford was nearby.  But this was an important trial dealing with
the double standard in terms of gender.  The trial also used PMS and
"tipped uterus" as both defense and prosecution arguments -- the SF
Chronicle editorialized about female shootists once a month prowling
the streets with pistols.  It was also the first trial that women's
rights activists insisted on being in the audience -- women were
forbidden from the vulgarity of a murder trial in the past -- as
Emily Pitts Stevens and her group of "dirty skirts" pushed past
Emperor Norton to enter the courtroom. I've written about the Laura
Fair case in "Cannibal Eliot, and The Lost Histories of San
Francisco."  At the time of "The Gilded Age" Twain was not terribly
progressive when it came to women's rights.  He soon changed.  I'm
not so sure that his opinion of the jury system changed much, though.

Hilton Obenzinger