'She killed not from hate but from love': motherhood, melodrama and mercy killing in the case of May Brownhill

Seal, Lizzie (2017) 'She killed not from hate but from love': motherhood, melodrama and mercy killing in the case of May Brownhill. Women's History Review. ISSN 0961-2025

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Abstract

This article examines press portrayals of and public reactions to a ‘mercy killing’ in 1930s England. May Brownhill, sixty-two, killed her ‘invalid’ adult son by giving him an overdose of aspirin and poisoning him with coal gas. Through the conventions of melodrama, May was portrayed in the press as a respectable, devoted and self-sacrificial mother deserving of sympathy. The case also resonated with contemporary debates about euthanasia. It is an historical example of popular leniency, whereby although guilty of a crime, an individual is not seen as deserving of punishment. The case contributes to our understanding of how popular leniency was shaped by gender, class and age, and by contemporary views on ‘mercy killing’.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Gender Studies
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0621 Culture
Depositing User: Lizzie Seal
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2017 10:37
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2017 11:22
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/69517

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