Posted by Literary Titan
Dangers, Darkness and Destitution in Nineteenth Century Britain examines the life of a notorious serial killer and baby farmer, Amelia Dyer. Her actions ultimately led to the formation of modern child protection laws. Ellis uses Dyer’s case as a jumping off point to examine the danger and limited options of a woman living in the late 1800’s in Britain’s East End. Often as victims of circumstance, Ellis argues many women, including Dyer, did not have options to makes ends meet and fell prey to dangerous and dark professions.
This was a well researched and thorough examination of women in the late 1880’s. The argument presented, gave excellent details and a well rounded account from many academic perspectives to argue the idea. Author Jo Ellis’ analysis of Amelia Dyer’s case drew connections to fairytale witches to vilify women serial killers. Further, how the actions of Dyer and other accused “baby-farmers” should not be considered horrific solely based on the perpetrators gender, but more as a cultural practice. Women in Victorian times were expected to be utterly selfless and the perfect ideal of a mother; this dissertation drove home the fact that female criminals were presented as a form of “domestic betrayal” (pg. 46).
I particularly enjoyed how Ellis bridged Dyer’s case to Jack the Ripper’s case from 1888, stating there is significant evidence that would point towards it being a female serial killer, “Jill the Ripper.” I thought this was an excellent way to supplement their argument. It is interesting to read how many still discredit this theory despite the overwhelming evidence, because of their beliefs that “a woman could never do that.”
Danger, Darkness and Destitution in Nineteenth Century Britain was a great read and was not too muddled with high-brow jargon. The argument was straightforward and introduced me to many new concepts from Britain’s dark history. This is an informative and riveting book that conveys intriguing content in an entertaining and straightforward way.
Pages: 88 | ASIN: B09GKW3RFV
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