The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-century New York

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Alfred A. Knopf, 1998 - Biography & Autobiography - 432 pages
This evocative account goes beyond the sensationalized news stories surrounding the murder of a young prostitute in 1836 New York City, In 1836, thise murder made headlines in New York City and around the country, inaugurating a sex-and-death sensationalism in news reporting that haunts us today. Patricia Cline Cohen goes behind these first lurid accounts to reconstruct the story of the mysterious victim, Helen Jewett. From her beginnings as a servant girl in Maine, Jewett refashioned herself, using four successive aliases, into a highly paid courtesan. But she was to meet her match -- and her nemesis -- in a youth called Richard Robinson. He became Helen Jewett's lover in a tempestuous affair and 10 months later was arrested for her murder.

He stood trial in a five-day courtroom drama that ended with his acquittal amid the cheers of hundreds of fellow clerks and other spectators. With no conviction for murder, nor closure of any sort, the case continued to tantalize the public, even though Richard Robinson disappeared into the wilds of Texas and a new life under a new name. Through her meticulous and ingenious research, Patricia Cline Cohen traces his life there and the many twists and turns of the lingering mystery of the murder.

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THE MURDER OF HELEN JEWETT: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York

User Review  - Kirkus

An admirable if not always compelling exploration of a once-sensational murder and trial that recall our recent obsession with the Simpson case. Cohen (History/Univ. of Calif., Santa Barbara) begins ... Read full review

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User Review  - coolmama -

Not a light read, but a mighty interesting one. Patricia Cline writes a scholarly, (perhaps overly?) researched historical non-fiction into the life of Helen Jewett, a prostitute in the bawdy 1830's ... Read full review



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About the author (1998)

Patricia Cline Cohen is Professor of History and Acting Dean of the Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara. From 1991 to 1996 she chaired the Women's Studies Program there. She is the author of A Calculating People: The Spread of Numeracy in Early America (1985) and of numerous articles and reviews, and a coauthor of The American Promise (1997).

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