Discourses of single women accused of murder: mid twentieth-century constructions of 'lesbians' and 'spinsters'

Seal, Lizzie (2009) Discourses of single women accused of murder: mid twentieth-century constructions of 'lesbians' and 'spinsters'. Women's Studies International Forum, 32 (3). pp. 209-218. ISSN 0277-5395

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Abstract

This article examines gender representations of ‘single’ women accused of murder in mid twentieth-century England and Wales. Specifically, it identifies discourses of the ‘lesbian’ and the ‘spinster’ as they arose during the prosecution process. These discourses are outlined and placed within their wider socio-historical context. The appearance of different constructions of lesbianism and/or spinsterhood is analysed in relation to five women's cases, with reference to material from their case files. The examination of discourses of singleness reveals how it was often construed in the mid twentieth-century criminal justice system as connoting marginal, or deviant, gender identity in women. Single women did not fulfil contemporary norms of femininity relating to marriage and motherhood. However, representations of single women were frequently contested and contradictory, and in the cases under discussion also related to the type of killing the woman had carried out.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV6001 Criminology
Depositing User: Lizzie Seal
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2012 08:21
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2013 12:40
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/41531

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