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The End

In conclusion, the intersection of class, gender, and living conditions of 1884 Hartford shaped the dynamics of Ada Brown’s murder and subsequent case. Such dynamics illuminate the difficulties inherent in being a nineteenth century woman in poverty.

Class provides the main framework for understanding Ada Brown’s murder and the trial of her killer. Class explains Ada Brown’s living conditions, the geography of her existence, as well as the related presence and behavior of police forces. Furthermore, the class status of Brown, Harrison, and Gregory informed their gender roles and expressions.

Hartford in the nineteenth century had a large slum and tenement district on its east side, and this was where Brown lived with her daughter. Dubbed a “fallen woman” by the Hartford Courant, she dwelled in a tenement with her hard-drinking friends and neighbors. She lived with Harrison, her lover, and on the night she died, Gregory and other women were present. Prostitution was common in her area, and given her fragmented work history, it is possible Brown participated in the oldest profession herself. When Harrison, a driver with a painful and potentially violent past, killed Brown over a $10 bill, only to then be attacked himself by Gregory, who may have been out of work and who also had a violent history, we arguably see one form of 19th century masculinity, particularly as it intersected with dire poverty, manifest.

Police responded to the attack on Brown with relative speed, which is both surprising and unsurprising for the area. On the one hand, police assigned to the east side of Hartford often gave the neighborhood wide berth, as mobs of angry people had assaulted beat cops on more than one occasion. On the other hand, the local cops were also deeply involved in prostitution and gambling rings in the city, not unlike in other cities, so Brown’s apartment just outside the east side—in an stretch with many known prostitutes—might explain their haste. They left Brown for dead, got medical help for Harrison, and so Brown’s life as a poor, female resident of Hartford came to an abrupt close. The coroner saw no need for an inquest, and police and media focus turned to the men. Brown was summarily dismissed because of her class and sexual status; for the men, however, the latter in particular was irrelevant to what followed.

The case, then goes from a murder of a lower class woman, to being a case about the men involved—the media circus that ensued was about two (potential) murderers, not the woman who was killed. If we accept that the media reflected what was important in its the time and place, then we can easily argue that lower-class women ranked far beneath men of the lower class in terms of media cachet and social prestige. The trial that unfolded showcased the basic mechanisms of the legal system, as Gregory and Harrison’s charges were split from each other, Gregory’s dropped, Harrison’s weakened from murder to manslaughter, eventually leading him to a seven-year prison sentence. What might for us appear a short sentence was quite ordinary by nineteenth-century standards, and the horrible conditions of Wethersfield State Prison took their toll on the men within: Harrison emerged worse than he went in, and was last counted on the census as an inmate of some unidentifiable institution in South Windsor before passing away sometime later. While Harrison surely deserved the sentence he received, what such a system of both justice and punishment meant for men and women of the nineteenth century could still use some exploring by us.

The case was not simply a fight over money by people of the lower class but a result of the broader contours of urban life in the 19th century. The interconnectedness of class, gender and living conditions shaped the lives of all residents of America’s major cities. Brown’s death was only so different, for example, from the literal dozens of murders of Chicago women in the late century as America’s cities took on new forms with tremendous national changes.

By Brenna Miller, Grace DiModugno, Jessica Saltzman, Lauren Wojsnarowicz, Isabella Russo, Samantha Mullen, Anxhela Cenkolli, Lauren Leary, Ashley Wesley, and Dr. Jennifer Cote.

The Red Light District

The city of Hartford has had a well-documented problem with prostitution and sex trafficking. Prostitution and sex trafficking included homicides of sex workers and infants who became endangered during prostitution transaction.(HPP) Hartford historians have documented a thriving “red light” district in the 1800s and into the early 1900s.(HPP) It was tolerated and was the connection to a variety of crimes and other problems within the city’s walls.(HPP) This is because there was a time in American history where prostitution was a tolerated trade of work. Therefore laws against selling sex are fairly new, no more than about 100 years old, “and came onto the books long after the sex trade took root in American cities.” (Grant)

“The “red-light district,” or the place in a city where commercial sex is isolated or encouraged (or both), might be a concept now most associated with Europe and Asia, but it’s an American invention.” (Grant) The phrase was first documented in 1894, in an Ohio newspaper, The Sandusky Register. (Grant)  The term referenced to a group of Salvation Army volunteers who had set up show in town to minister to presumed prostitutes. The origin of the term comes from the customers of prostitutes, and not of prostitutes themselves. Rail workers would leave a red lantern outside the doors and windows of the houses where they met prostitutes between their work shifts. “At the time Storyville, may have been the most fully realized red-light district in the United States, centralizing brothels and cribs into one neighborhood.” (Grant) In 1832, Connecticut chartered its first railroads, and from 1872 to 1968 the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, which is commonly known as the New Haven, was operated in New England. This was the mail source of rail traffics, and was located six miles away from Ada’s home. When visiting bars and saloons, rail workers were able to purchase brothel directories, also known as “blue books,” which gave the workers a detailed list of specials available within each house.




“Brothels were reportedly “very numerous” in Hartford in the 1880’s, but no careful study of prostitution appears to have been conducted until 1892” (Baldwin 66). George B. Thayer, superintendent of the Charity Organization Society, was the first to cultivate a report on prostitution in the city. He named about twelve different houses of prostitution in his report, “all but two [located] on the east side, the riverfront neighborhoods of poor immigrants and squalid tenements just east of Main Street” (Baldwin 66). Thayer made note of one location in particular, the River House, located on Ferry Street, overlooking the Connecticut River. The River House was a four-story building overlooking the water. Reportedly, prostitutes “lived and worked on the upper floors [of the building] while boats were stored on the ground floor” (Baldwin 66). Other notable brothels “like Kate Pratt’s, Hub Smith’s, and Hunter’s place existed…in the Front Street neighborhood” (Thornton). In addition to the River House on Ferry Street, many individual women were reported to prostitute themselves from their own lodging houses in an attempt to supplement their low wage incomes. Many of these women lived in rooming houses downtown, or on Main Street, Chapel Street, and Asylum Street, though they were likely spread out into other areas of the city as well. Much to Thayer’s dismay, these women were seldom bothered by the police, as “it [was] only the noisy [houses]” that were raided (Baldwin 66). The red line on the map indicated Sheldon Street; Ada’s house would have been somewhere in the middle but the writing was too small to see. The blue lines indicate streets known to have been highly populated with both houses of prostitution, as well as the women, mentioned above, who prostituted themselves individually. (Specifically, the streets highlighted in blue include Main Street (horizontal line), Asylum Street (bisecting Main St.), Front Street (lower horizontal line) and Ferry Street- located in the lower right side of the map). I was unable to locate Chapel Street on this specific map, but by referencing other maps, I was able to narrow down the area in which it most likely was located- somewhere inside the dotted blue box).

The lack of police intervention allowed prostitution to remain relatively unchecked in areas outside of the Hartford’s red-light district (as well as inside it). “The only prostitutes likely to be arrested were streetwalkers” of which Thayer estimated there were hundreds. We can assume that while prostitution was a recognized issue in the city of Hartford, it was extremely difficult to track or regulate due to it’s inherently secretive nature. Based on Ada’s location and questionable/uncertain relations with both Gregory and Harrison it is possible that Ada may have been involved in prostitution. It is my guess that she would have most likely worked individually, as opposed to having been involved with any known brothels, due to the fact that she had a child as well as was said to have been a painter according to census records. Because prostitutes were infrequently arrested, it is unlikely Ada, in the event she was a prostitute, was ever picked up by law enforcement or ever had a criminal record.


Works Cited

Baldwin, Peter C. Domesticating the Street: The Reform of Public Space in Hartford, 1850-1930. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1999. Print.

Melissa Gira Grant / AlterNet. (n.d.). When Prostitution Wasn’t a Crime: The Fascinating History of Sex Work in America. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/when-prostitution-wasnt-crime-fascinating-history-sex-work-america

Thornton, Steve. “Hartford’s Sex Trade: Prostitutes and Politics.” ConnecticutHistory.org. Web


Tying it together

This week, as it is the last blog post, we decided to backtrack all the way back to week one when we discussed forensic science and technology and their implications in the case of Ada Brown. Since our first time addressing the topic we have yet to go back and go into greater detail. Therefore, our intention this week is to pull together some of our earlier research, new research, the coroner’s report, and our more expansive knowledge on the case, having spent the past two months contextualizing. However, it was quite difficult to find copious sources detailing forensics and technology in the late 1800’s. This alone makes a statement that there was a lack of advanced technology, forensic understanding and application of this to crime scenes and criminal trials. This understanding alone, about the lack of something, makes a big statement. The lack of knowledge implies various limitations on first responders, crime scene investigators, prosecutors, coroners, and all others involved in investigating, solving, and prosecuting crime at this time. These limitations impacted Ada Brown, her death and the way in which the case was handled.

Closer Look at the Coroner’s Report

To see some of these limitations, we looked back at the coroner’s report. To better understand how the role of the coroner in the 1884 case of Ada Brown differs from our traditional understanding of the role of a coroner now, I found a more concrete definition  of a coroner and description of their role.

“The Coroner’s office must inquire into the circumstances of sudden, unexplained, violent and unnatural deaths. This may require a post-mortem examination sometimes followed by an inquest. The Coroner’s inquiry is concerned with establishing whether or not death was due to natural or unnatural causes,” (San Mateo County).

Modern day coroners are expected to use their scientific knowledge, often especially their medical knowledge, to determine the way in which a victim died. Typically modern coroners do not make assumptions or testimonies about who killed a victim. This definition and understanding of what a coroner is today, paints a different picture than we can see from the coroner’s report in the case of Ada Brown. The report outlines the where, when, who, and what. Basically the report says that Ada died on October 21st 1884 due to an “incised wound on the left side of her neck and hemorrhage.” Then it goes on to talk about Ada and her background such as her full name, her prior marriage and the fact that she lived with Martin Harrison before her death. Then the report also lists the disagreement between Brown and Harrison that led to her death. The report appears to read more like the report of an investigator than a medical examiner. Also, he makes a lot of statements, in a matter of fact way about Harrison’s guilt. The fact that he relies on information from investigators to write his report, shows that there was a limited medical understanding and limited forensic usage when murders happened in 1880, as opposed to nowadays.

While looking back at the coroner’s report we noticed something that we think is worth mentioning. At the bottom of the first page of the actual report it states, “and that I am satisfied that the said death was not caused by the criminal act, omission, or carelessness of any other person or persons, and that an inquest is unnecessary.” Theorizing why the report might say this, a few different things come to mind. First, it may have been an error of some sort. Maybe he did not interpret the report correctly. Second, he could have been paid off. As Jess’ group touched upon the possible corruption within the police force, it is not surprising that the coroner himself could have been paid off. We are not sure what evidence is used within the case, or any proceedings in the case at all, but we must assume that the coroner’s report must have been used. In this case, it is a large possibility that the report could have been manipulated in order to protect the men in the case, but most importantly, who? Another possible reason could be that the bodies were switched. If we take into consideration the fact that papers were lost, why can’t bodies be? Could the corner have examined someone else, but was told it was Ada? This is something we will never be able to know for sure, but all of which must be considered heavily, especially in regards to the case itself. The place they were located, as Jess’ group also explored, seemed to be one of high criminal activity due to the fact that there were more police officers patrolling the area than the average. We can use Devil in the White City as an example of how easy it was for a person to go missing without any question, so why not Ada’s body?

Solving the Case

Here is what we know:

Who –  Gregory: May or may not have money because of father, was a potential partner for Ada

Harrison: Cab driver, had three wives, lost three children, could have been murdered or died from a sickness. Also potential partner of Ada’s (sugar daddy?).

Ada: Widow, once a painter, now potential prostitute.

What – Murder of Ada Brown, Harrison injured

Where – State St. Right on the water, four floor building. Red light district, near a brothel, potentially dangerous due to cop ratio and placement of police station.

When – 1884, October.

Why – $10

What can we conclude?

After a numerous amount of weeks of research, blood, and tears, we have reached the end of the blog posts. From what we were able to gather, there were multiple factors that contributed to the actions that took place the night Ada Brown met her demise. Although the list above seems sparse, the research done by the class was more than just who, what, where, when, or why. It is a matter of perspective of the lives they have lived, the choices they have made, and the society in which they were a part of. As we know, the police force and forensic technology we’re not quite as advanced as it is today. Will we ever know what really happened that night? Probably not, unless we had a time machine, but with the knowledge we have gathered we have gotten as close as we could.

If the crime had happened during modern time, the outcome would have been much different. Like stated above, there was a lack of technology, but also a lack of Police presence and Paramedic presence. These were huge disadvantages when it came to investigating the crime. If the crime happened in modern day, the police officers who show up to the scene would be trained properly in first aid, and could have treated Ada’s wounds as they awaited the paramedics’ arrival. Ada would have been rushed to the hospital, and he life might have been able to be saved.  We also now take full advantage of fingerprinting crime scenes, DNA testing, and so much more. The crime scene investigators would have used the methods previously stated, and would have been able to determine much easier who committed the crime. The lack of technology and police training/paramedics presence greatly impacted the case of Ada Brown.

Sam, Bella and Lauren


Police, the press, and politics of Hartford


This week we are discussing the language used about women in the press and how they are represented. We will also be discussing policing in the city of Hartford, particularly on the east side around the area that Ada Brown was killed. We will also touch on the politics surrounding Ada Brown during her life and afterwards. Discussing what crime was like in the area at the time is important in order to understand the circumstances around her murder and why it might have been handled poorly. It is also important to discuss women in the press because this will lead us to an understanding of how women were viewed and portrayed at the time and if this might have affected how the case was handled.  


The murder of Ada Brown took place around the area of the East Side of Hartford. Areas such as Gold Street were known for the brothels, and the prostitutes that were walking around the streets. The restrictions on the East Side were much weaker and laws were not enforced as harshly. This area was known for being a bit more rough, “voices were louder, disputes more public and violent, and drinking less discreet. Police made frequent arrests for brawling and especially for drunkenness” (Baldwin 44), police were also frequently beat up by the people that they were telling to disperse, and this area was known for its brothels in the 1880s. This lack of the law may have been caused by the police involvement in the vice district where they allow and sometimes partook in the activities themselves, this may have added to the discussion at the time of police corruption (Baldwin 76). Police in this area also when dealing with prostitutes often did not arrest them and sent them right to shelters, and if they were arrested they would often be sent to shelters the next day when they were released, these cases never usually went to a trial (Baldwin). This would significantly relate to the case because if Ada Brown was involved as a prostitute this may have affected how police handled the case and the relaxed attitudes about a murder taking place here. It would also affect any records that Ada Brown might have had for an arrest on prostitution. This most likely would not be on any records which is unfortunate because it would have been very helpful in proving the reasons her case was handled the way it was. Finding the public opinion on Ada Brown is difficult, but looking at how the press wrote about her might help, as we write about next.


So as stated above, this week for the press I looked at the language used to talk about women and how they were represented in the Ada Brown murder case. For Ada Brown specifically, The Hartford Courant used words such as wayward woman, which at this time meant that she was a widowed woman trying to accomplish things that were not socially acceptable at the time such as trying to support her daughter by having a job and we think also having an affair with both Harrison and Gregory. As for the murder case pertaining to Ada Brown, as said before she was sort of in between the “old woman” and the “new Woman”. I believe that because of this she was scrutinized more than the other case I brought up in previous weeks about the murder of Mary Stannard. Even though Mary Stannard worked, she was a servant and during this time period, that was more of a woman’s work. Ada Brown, however, did work as a housekeeper according to ancestry.com but I think what caused her so much scrutiny was that she was possibly having an affair with both men which seemed looked down upon for a woman to do during this time period. In Discovering the News page 64, Richard Harding Davis, a journalist at the time said that in the “old days” he was taught by the publishers to write about what they saw in detail rather than drawing conclusions about people and events. I believe in the case of Ada Brown, The Hartford Courant drew a lot of conclusions about what happened that night because it wasn’t possible for them to be at the scene. Writers during this time tried to put in a lot of their own opinions about people and events rather than stated what went on during the murder case, which is exactly what The New York Times did. When The New York Times referred to Ada Brown, they mentioned her as if she had done nothing wrong and did not mention that she was a “wayward woman” (Hartford Courant). I believe that the main reason for the difference in the way the press speaks about Ada has to do with where the papers are located. The Hartford Courant was in the town Ada was murdered and they took the story and tried to make it more sensationalized and interesting. They also talk about the affairs she was having with both Harrison and Gregory and the fight she was having with Harrison over money. The Hartford Courant brings a sort of flair to the story which may be the reason we believed that Harrison killed Ada and his other four wives. They painted him as a bad guy rather than someone who may have had a really hard life. On the other hand, The New York Times flawlessly brought up the case without all the flair so it was easier to understand the details of the case. They did not subject Ada as anything but an unfortunate woman who was murdered.

As a side note, girls were given the same treatment as women as well. In Domesticating the Street, chapter 4: Saving the Newsies, when girls tried selling newspapers, many people had a problems with it. The Courant refused to sell the morning papers because the girls were using “vulgar and abusive language” if people declined the offer to buy a paper (Baldwin 99). When The Courant complained about the girls staying out too late and entering saloons, which were considered as an “exclusively male environment” that was not fit for little girls to be apart of (Baldwin 99). The Courant also touched on how if they didn’t help the girls then they would grow up as “bad women” (Baldwin 99-100). Eventually what happened was the Common Council, and the influence of a group of unnamed wealthy women, banned all girls under the age of 16 from selling newspapers at any hour. One official on the committee stated that this was in effect in consideration of protecting the children from harm. The interesting part though is that boy never got banned from any age and were allowed to continue their daily work. The bias that girls couldn’t sell the newspapers and boys could. Many women, including Mary Hall, a women’s right advocate, tried hard to give these girls the right to again sell newspapers and told the Council that they needed to give these girls the right to do this and they could make it the streets safer by taking away more of the brothels. The Times brought up many times in their papers about how these girls of 9 or 10 should be able to work on the streets because they sell more papers than the boys and they also help their widowed mothers by bringing in some income. This makes me wonder that if Lena was old enough if she ever sold papers to help her mother, Ada keep afloat or if Harrison or Gregory helped support her after her husband died. Ancestry.com never specifies whether or not she did so it is hard to make assumptions about this.


Though politics are not discussed too much in depth in Peter Baldwin’s book, Domesticating the Streets, there are some interesting things that he mentioned which I feel were worth noting. In Chapter Two, Baldwin talks about the multiple attempts to purify and reform the city of Hartford at the turn of the century (1890s-1900s). In doing so, he briefly mentions an interesting insight into the politics of Hartford. “Enlisting intermittent support from politicians of both parties at a time when Republicans and Democrats traded control of city hall nearly every two years, [reformers] achieved some notable victories” (Domesticating the Streets). This appears to show that there was regular vacillation between which of the two major political parties was in power, as well as hinting that this seesawing of political power had been going on for quite some time.

In Chapter Three, titled “The Fight Against the Vice District,” Baldwin talks about how many women fought to abolish the red light district of Hartford, which included shutting down brothels and getting rid of prostitutes. In this chapter Baldwin again mentions the “alternating party rule and internal party conflict” that was affecting Hartford from the late 1890s into the early 1900s. Baldwin points out that, “Antiprostitution was truly a nonpartisan issue in Hartford, supported by some Democrats and opposed by some Republicans, much like other reforms during this period of alternating party rule and internal party conflict” (Domesticating the Streets). Baldwin previously mentioned how, though there had been two Democrat Mayors back to back, they both had very different views on how to treat the suffragists’ desire to shut down the red light district. One mayor had been apathetic to the movement, while the other showed himself to be an ardent supporter of abolishing the vice district. This disparity within the Democratic party was probably also happening within the Republican party. Because of the fluctuation between not only the parties themselves, but also the individual political viewpoints within the parties, it is probable to assume that the city of Hartford was having difficulty in maintaining any sort of political stability.

This ties back into the case of Ada Brown because this political instability had been occurring at least as far back as the 1870s. We know this to be at least partly true from the previous information on three different mayors of Hartford from one of our prior blog posts. Two of the mayors during Ada Brown’s adult life were members of the Democratic party and one was a member of the Republican party. The political fluctuation that ensued from just these three mayors was seen previously from the difficulties the police force and Chief Packard experienced under these multiple political agendas. Packard was dismissed from the police force under one mayor, only to be reinstated a few years later by another. If there had been any attempts in the 1870s or 1880s to shut down brothels and limit or abolish prostitution, there is a large possibility that, because of the consistently changing political scene, none of those attempts would have gotten very far (not at least until 1914, well after Ada Brown’s death). Therefore, assuming the possibility that Ada might have been a prostitute, (or in prostitute-like circumstances), she would not have been much affected by early attempts to abolish the red light district and any form of activity associated with it.

Works Cited

Jones, C. H. (2015). The New Woman, 1880-1915. Retrieved November 18, 2016, from http://www.edwardianpromenade.com/fashion/the-new-woman/

Schudson, M. (1978). Discovering the news: A social history of American newspapers. New York: Basic Books.

Baldwin, Peter C. Domesticating the Street: The Reform of Public Space in Hartford, 1850-1930. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1999. Print.

Hospitals, Treatment of Insane, and Emergency Critical Care

This week we focused on hospital conditions, insane prisoners, and emergency critical care in the 1880s and how these relate to Ada Brown’s case individually.

Hospitals and Treatment of Insane

For this week we researched the conditions of the insane in the prisons and hospitals, and found that their treatment was not great according to articles from the Hartford Courant right around the 1880s through about the 1890s. In the hospital report from 1880 it discussed the number of patients that the hospital received in a year. When they wrote the article there were 95 current patients. They admitted 692 patients throughout the year alone: 162 males and 230 females. Of the 326 that recovered, 66 people died, 30 left, 20 births occurred, 93 were removed for increased improvement (38 not improved), 103 still remained under treatment. 59 of these patients were supported by charity. The staff supported close to 7756 patients a week. The training of nurses has gotten better due to the fact more and more private families are requesting nurses. 42 connecticut soldiers were treated, 311 Americans were treated, 286 foreigners, and people from 49 different towns came to this specific hospital. (Hartford Courant) This gives a good insight to what a hospital dealt with in a year and how busy it must have been. This could be revealing about what treatment was like if it was crowded (possibly not very good), and this could have affected how Ada Brown’s death was handled and the efforts they put into reviving her, which were lacking to say the least.

We also looked into the treatment of insane prisoners which might relate to the case if Harrison was indeed insane. The conditions of the prison itself were horrific, it was filthy with maggots in the bed and gross cell conditions and beatings of the prisoners with cane (Hartford Courant). In terms of the insane prisoners specifically the law was supposed to have a prisoner examined by three experts before being labeled insane, if they deemed the prisoner insane the warden was to ship the prisoner off to the Connecticut Hospital for the insane in Middletown (Hartford Courant). The article also went on to say that this law for insane criminals was often not followed and many were left stuck in the prisons and not getting the proper care that they needed (Hartford Courant). This may be an indicator of what Harrisons fate would have been in the prison system, showing that he probably never recovered from his mental illness if he truly had one.

Emergency Critical Care

This week we also decided to look further into the details of Ada Brown’s murder by doing some research on emergency critical care in the 1880s and relating the information specifically to the case. In 1880s Hartford, horse-drawn ambulances would have been the source of emergency transportation to a hospital or some sort of medical care. It is plausible to think that Harrison would have been transported to the hospital in a horse-drawn ambulance. I attempted to locate other, more specific information on medical first-responders in 1884, but I unfortunately came up quite short. Therefore, I have decided to focus on the information presented in the dossier and using that to compare Ada’s medical care with Harrison’s, and what that might say about the case.

According to the dossier, Ada had been bleeding from a wound in her neck and was unconscious when the doctor arrived on the scene of the crime. He had checked her wound and deemed her past any attempts to save. However, when the doctor found Harrison with a similar wound, he made the decision to try and save him.

I at first speculated if the fact that Ada was a woman had anything to do with the fact that Harrison seemed to be considered a more important patient than her. I do not know if the doctor would have known of her status as a “fallen” woman, but if he did, I wondered if such knowledge could have possibly affected how much effort he was willing to put into saving her versus Harrison. I did not find any information to support or negate this, however, so I did not go further with this speculation.

 Another, more plausible speculation was the fact that the doctor must have been able to determine that Harrison had a greater chance at survival over Ada. In the first article of our dossier, Ada is described as being “in the throes of death.” The assumption would be that her body was going through the final stages of agony before death, but what that phrase means specifically is rather unclear.

However, Harrison was completely unconscious when the doctor arrived. That certainly seems to imply that Harrison was not in favorable shape either, yet the doctor still makes an attempt to save him versus Ada.

An interesting side point is that the Courant makes a note of the exact time when Ada Brown dies- 1:45 A.M. This means that someone was paying close attention to Ada when she died. The dossier article makes a point to state that there were other people who were also at the scene of the crime, (such as Courant representatives who were asking Gregory questions), so it would be plausible to assume that, since the doctor was tending Harrison, one or more of these other people in the house could have remained with Ada as she took her last breaths. However, the Dossier does not specify or elaborate on this further, so we can only assume and speculate.



Works Cited

HARTFORD HOSPITAL. (1881, Mar 21). Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887)Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/554167655?accountid=44444

THE PRISON HEARING. (1893, May 03). The Hartford Courant (1887-1922)Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/554529354?accountid=44444

THE PRISON HEARING. (1893, May 03). The Hartford Courant (1887-1922)Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/554529354?accountid=44444

CRUELTY TO INSANE CRIMINALS. (1880, Mar 03). Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/554120709?accountid=44444

“Beyond Advanced: Then and Now.”  Hartford Hospital 2014 Annual Report. Accessed 11/13/16.


Ada Brown: Fallen Woman


We have discussed, throughout the past few weeks, traditional gender roles of both men and women, during the late 19th century, the Victorian Era. An aspect of the traditional role of women that we have yet to go into detail on, is sexuality and the traditional expectation of a woman to remain pure outside of marriage. This week, we plan to discuss this and how it pertains to Ada, who was labeled by the press as a “fallen woman.” But, what is a “fallen woman” and what does that term say about the expectation of women at this time, what becomes of women who fail to hold themselves to that standard, and how does that alter our basic understanding of Ada Brown in her murder case?

Traditional Role of Women (Purity and Domesticity)

To understand the importance of and the difference between what is a “fallen woman” and the expectation of a traditional woman, I am going back to discuss what the expectations of a traditional woman is, especially regarding sexuality and their role in society. The Separate Spheres Ideology, which we have discussed in previous weeks, explains the two very different roles in which men and women were traditionally expected to play in society. There were two spheres: the public sphere and the private sphere. Men were part of the public sphere. In this sphere, men worked and earned a living for themselves and their dependents, women and children. Women were part of the private sphere. In this sphere, women took care of the home and the children, living quite domestic lives (Laslett and Brenner 386). There were many traditional stereotypes and differences that were expected of men and women. It was expected of men to be well educated and to have opinions about politics and society. Men were also seen as powerful, logical thinkers, independent, and sexual beings. Women were, on the other hand, expected to be agreeable, passive, domestic, emotional and susceptible to madness/hysteria, and were expected pure until marriage (Radek). Whenever, especially women, stepped outside of these traditional expectations, roles, and character traits, they were viewed negatively and often treated differently because of it.

According to Professor Kimberly M. Radek, Historian Barbara Welter argues that there are four main virtues that a “true” woman must have. These four virtues are; piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity (Radek). The “true” woman was not supposed to have sexual urges or sexual desire. Therefore, for a woman to be sexual active and to feel sexual desire, was abnormal and deviant. Women were expected to wait until marriage to have sex and to only have sex within the confines of a marriage. Marriage was the only place for and reason for sex. Through sex, a woman’s duty was to have children and then to raise those children.

It is important to note that these traditional expectations were, more often than not,  expectations of middle-upper class women. Lower, working class women often failed to uphold these expectations and were looked down on because of it. Different aspects within the lives of working class women and families forced these women outside of their traditional gender roles, which is why it does not come to us as a big surprise that someone like Ada Brown, was labeled as a “fallen woman.”

“Fallen Woman”

The term “Fallen Woman” is used to describe a woman who has lost her innocence and thus fallen from the grace of god. This expression was used to describe the belief that in order for a woman to be socially and morally acceptable, her sexual experiences should happen only when she is married. Something as little as a woman having knowledge of sexual experiences was frowned upon because this meant that she had the experience (Mills 5). Woman’s sexual integrity held some value, because of this, if a woman had any sexual experience what so ever, it would be much harder for her to find a man to marry her.

“Fallen” is more of an umbrella term. There are many different situations that can put a women in this category. Having sex outside of marriage, being seduced by a male aggressor, a woman with a bad reputation, a prostitute, or even being educated (Auerbach). Women, especially those of higher class, were to live up to the strict standards that society placed on them (Kubiesa 3).  If they veered away from these standards, they were deviant. All of these examples stated above show the female is being deviant, which caused her to be labeled as “fallen.”  Deviance is the main point that sticks out to us when we are talking about Ada. This is because she was believed to have been sleeping with or fooling around with not just one but two men.

As it pertains to Ada Brown

To begin, in past posts we have concluded that Ada is not the atypical woman within the time period, but does not fall under the category of a “New Woman.” As the first paragraph discusses the average woman in the time period, we see the words “agreeable, passive, domestic, emotional” and pure (meaning virgin until marriage). As we know, all of which do not characterize our victim. Her defense against Harrison in regards to the $10 counters most of the attributes listed. Further, the four virtues piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity also do not describe Ada. The overlapping expectation of women to not have sex before marriage within both a typical fallen woman and a typical upper middle class woman highlights the society’s tendency to fall onto religious beliefs. Ada had her daughter before she was married, breaking the whole idea of purity in sexuality that was dominant within the Victorian Era. Again, as Sam stated above, these are the expectations of upper-middle class women, but I believe that general society expected women to uphold these morals. The lower class women and their past/decisions have a direct correlation on whether or not they have “failed” to uphold the standards and as we know, this is true in Ada’s case. As Lauren stated, the idea of being “fallen” is a widely interpreted term, but in Ada’s case we are focused on sex before marriage, and being deviant. We can even infer that her defiance against Harrison would be something that could consider her to be fallen. The case at large was not handled in a way that Ada’s life was taken into consideration. She was left to bleed out because she seemed to be too far gone, could this be a result of the association of poor women within the location of her death? Could it be because she is a woman in a male dominated society? You be the judge.



Auerbach, Nina. “The Rise of the Fallen Woman.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 35, no. 1, 1980, pp. 29–52. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2933478.

Kubiesa, Jane M. “The Victorians and Their Fallen Women: Representations of Female Transgression in Nineteenth Century Genre Literature.” 2.2 (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Laslett, Barbara, and Johanna Brenner. “Gender and Social Reproduction: Historical            Perspectives.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 15, 1989, pp. 381–404. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2083231.

Mills, Victoria. “The Fallen Woman and the Foundling Hospital.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web. pp. 5-7

Radek, Kimberly M. “Women in the Nineteenth Century.” Women in the Nineteenth Century. Illinois Valley Community College, 21 Apr. 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2016. <http://www2.ivcc.edu/gen2002/women_in_the_nineteenth_century.htm>.


(By: Sam, Bella, and Lauren)



Murder vs. Manslaughter

For this week’s post, our general concept was to illustrate the difference between murder and manslaughter, and why Harrison’s sentence was reduced to manslaughter when first charged with murder. We were able to find the differences in murder and manslaughter and when Connecticut formally recognized a distinction between the two. Our overall thought was that the sentence was reduced due to the fact that the victim was a women. We looked through different sources and found different crimes between 1870-1890, to see if we can make a connection that men who murdered women, would receive less jail time, then a man killing a man. Unfortunately we could not make a connection with our hypothesis. We wanted to connect Ada’s gender to Harrison’s jail time. This post was also supposed to be made up with three parts using different subsections from each part as evidence. Part one was murder vs manslaughter, part two the mental health and background of the criminal, which we explored last week, and part three as gender being the focal point in the sentencing. However, we could not make the connection we wanted to with gender.


According to David H. Wrinn, the state of Connecticut did not formally recognize a distinction between murder and manslaughter until 1719, almost a century after the colony was settled in 1636. Connecticut’s early legal history is closely intertwined with the legal systems and ideology in play in England in the late 17th century to early to mid 18th century. The crime of murder implies that killing was done in malice. Murder can be broken down further into both the first and second degree. A first degree murder is both malicious and premeditated, as well as intentional. A second degree murder differs in that the killing is not premeditated.  Viewed historically, the crime of manslaughter may be divided generally into two main categories as well. The first being voluntary manslaughter. The second: involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is what we think of when someone is killed “in the heat of passion” whereas involuntary manslaughter would be something more along the lines of driving recklessly and killing someone, or, more specifically, involuntary manslaughter is the act of killing someone accidentally while engaged in a non-felony.

We know from the dossier, Article 9,  that both Harrison and Gregory were originally both charged with murder early on. Their charges were then dropped to manslaughter, and eventually Gregory’s manslaughter charge was dropped as well. Based on the distinctions between murder and manslaughter we can conclude that the lessening of the charges was due to a lack of malicious intent. Based on the evidence, it is possible that Harrison did not intend to kill Brown, explaining the drop to manslaughter. Harrison was eventually sentenced to 7 years at Wethersfield State Prison, as well as given a fine. We suspect the drop in charges as well as the light sentencing may have been related to Brown’s gender as well as social status.

As we saw in Eric Larson’s, Devil in the White City, single or unmarried women were often somewhat disposable. Women with money (or simply with husbands for that matter) were given more consideration or higher priority by police departments. Ada Brown was by no means a woman with money. Brown was single, and living with a man, most likely to foot the bills and support her child. Her status as a lower class single woman could easily have been a significant factor in the charging and sentencing of Harrison.