Monday, May 25, 2015

Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis

Sapphic Slashers - yep there's enough of them that entire volumes of work have been written about the subject. Alice and Freda Forever by Alexis Coe is a fast-moving tale of lesbian passion gone wrong in 1892 Memphis, and the fact that the main character does the dirty deed only six pages into the book makes things even more interesting. What led Alice Mitchell to kill Freda Ward out in the open in front of a crowd of people? Did anyone help her? Was she insane?

America became obsessed with this teenage murderer when it happened. Alice had, after all, planned to pass as a man and marry her seventeen-year-old fiance, Freda. It was unheard of in 1892, and surely meant that Alice was insane. In fact, the prosecutor couldn't find a single psychiatrist who would testify that same-sex love was anything BUT insanity. Clearly two women could not have a loving relationship together and think they could live together as a man and wife would - it just wasn't possible to be sane and feel that way. 

One of the greatest things about this tale of intrigue, murder, and passion is actually the design of the book. There are over 100 illustrations of historical documents, maps, artifacts, love letters, and the players themselves to keep the story moving at a very fiction-like pace. The book was obviously researched thoroughly and includes a complete bibliography of sources should you want to read more about it. 

And I certainly don't disagree that Alice Mitchell was, indeed, insane...just not for being gay. 

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