The most remarkable woman in EnglandPoison, celebrity and the trials of Beatrice Pace
Subject Area: History
BIC Categories: True crime, Gender studies: women, Crime & criminology, 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, Social & cultural history, British Isles
Published: August 2012
216 x 138 mm
Publisher: Manchester University Press
This book offers the first in-depth study of one of the most gripping trials of inter-war Britain, that of farmer’s wife Beatrice Pace for the arsenic murder of her husband. A riveting tale from the golden age of press sensationalism, the book offers insights into the era’s justice system, gender debates and celebrity culture. Based on extensive research, it locates the Pace saga in the vibrant world of 1920s press reporting and illuminates a forgotten chapter in the history of civil liberties by considering the debates the case raised about police powers and the legal system.
Spanning settings from the Paces’ lonely cottage in the Forest of Dean to the House of Commons and using sources ranging from meticulous detective reports to heartfelt admirers’ letters, The most remarkable woman in England combines serious scholarship with vivid storytelling to bring to life the extraordinary lives of ordinary people between the wars.
List of key figures involved in the Pace case
1 The ‘Fetter Hill mystery’: the strange death of Harry Pace
2 ‘Where there are so many cruel tongues’: investigations and accusations
3 ‘I cannot tell you, sir – I cannot tell you’: mysteries and circumstances
4 ‘Easing the burden of the tragic widow’: the making of ‘Mrs Pace’
5 ‘Every wife in the country has opportunity’: the ‘tragic widow’ on trial
6 ‘The matter is dead’: a new life and some old shadows
7 ‘18 years of hell’: gender, marriage and violence
8 ‘Unimaginable agonies and degradations and cruelties’: justice, politics and poverty
9 ‘Those who have had trouble can sympathise with you’: Mrs Pace and her public
'A fascinating analysis of one woman's domestic disaster, the power of the press and public opinion. Loved it!'
Jenni Murray, host of BBC Radio 4's "Woman's Hour" Immaculately researched, fluently written and utterly compelling.
Dominic Sandbrook, Literary Review, 1 December 2012 'The Most Remarkable Woman in England' is an intriguing book. It not only raises pertinent questions about the use of "evidence" to build a criminal case but also reveals how debates about gender roles, domestic violence and justice for the poor erupted at one particular cultural moment in inter-war Britain.'
June Purvis, The THE, 22 November 2012 'Sometimes life is better than fiction. Is there any novelist who could have got this extraordinary story so perfectly right, inventing it: the violence at the heart of it, the suspense, the succession of revelations, the passions so raw and inchoate that they have a mythic force? And then there's the grand sweep of the narrative, beginning in the bleak poverty of an obscure cottage in the Forest of Dean, acted out finally on the national stage. [...] John Carter Wood's book about the Pace trial works because of his sober and scrupulous assembly of the evidence, quoting the words that were spoken and written at the time so we can feel the textures of the material for ourselves – the found poetry of precise reportage.'
Tessa Hadley, in The Guardian (26 October 2012) 'This is history as murder-mystery. John Carter Wood tells a spellbinding story of murder, using the trials of the accused (Beatrice Pace) to reflect the nature of celebrity culture, the legal system, and gender relations in 1920s Britain. The fundamental question remains: did Beatrice Pace kill her husband? You will have to read the book to find out!'
Joanna Bourke, Professor of History, Birkbeck College 'The trial of Beatrice Pace was one of the most sensational news stories in inter-war Britain. In this thoroughly researched and clearly-argued study, John Carter Wood is not solely concerned with the usual question of whether or not Mrs Pace was guilty. Rather he also focuses on the period's celebrity culture, the role of the press, the development of public interest and the police. In so doing, he has produced a model for modern social and cultural historians.'
Clive Emsley, Professor Emeritus, Open University
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