The Girls of Murder City : fame, lust, and the beautiful killers who inspired Chicago is the full title of a new book by Douglas Perry. Even if you have no interest in the musical Chicago, haven't seen it, didn't like it, you will still find much to interest you in this book.
Its fascinating to read that from 1840-1920 no women were convicted of murder in all of that time. It doesn't mean that women weren't killing, no, it has more to do with the fact that the juries were all male and still put women on a pedestal. AND forget it if you were good-looking. All the newspapers had tabloid elements to them and your picture appeared on the front page: pictures of you from before the murder, pictures of you in jail perhaps looking helplessly up to the sky. The newspapers were just as responsible for depicting these women as helpless much to the chagrin of the prosecutors.
Finally, in 1924, a jury convicted a poor dishevelled Italian immigrant, Sabella Nitti, who spoke little English. Even after this, good-looking women could still get off for the most heinous murders. When a female lawyer decides to take the appeal case of Sabella Nitti, she dresses her up and gives her English lessons and she wins the appeal. This book is about all of those women and the female journalists who wrote about them.
It was the fact that it was so difficult to get a conviction of a good-looking woman that made the Illinois Courts change to adding women to juries. Really a fascinating read and great book club read.