Masculinity & Manhood: What might have led Martin Harrison to violence?


Harrison: Who was he?

This week I will be conducting a more thorough search of Harrison and his life in order to conclude where he matches up in the aspect of masculinity in the 19th century. While conducting my research, the dossier’s (as Lauren addressed last week) were less than helpful. Again, I looked to Ancestry to aid me in my search for answers.

Born on June, 8th 1834 in Glastonbury, Martin V. Harrison lived his life throughout Connecticut. One of the earliest records I found was a 1850 Federal Census for the town of Glastonbury.  Here, he is 16 years old living with Charles Harrison (49) and Ann Harrison (54), his mother and father and Joseph Harris (35). I am not sure who Joseph Harris is, but given the different last name he must be from a past marriage, but I digress. At 16, according to the census taken October 11th, 1850, Martin was a laborer. This did not seem out of the ordinary, until I found another census taken two days earlier than this one. That census shows Martin Harrison living in what seems to be an orphanage or group home with over 20 other people with whom he is not appeared to be related to. He is 17 here, not 16, and is a polisher by trade. I questioned whether or not Martin Harrison was a common name, but his records matched up. Using this information, I can see that the census’ are not as reliable as we thought.

The next source I found was a city directory that stated that Martin V. Harrison is a car driver and lives at 124 Market. At this point in time, he is 44 years old and the year is 1878. If you remember from last week, 124 Market was also where Gregory and his mother lived. (I will be attempting to make my way to the state library to figure out the significance of 124 Market). Based on the fact Harrison is on his own at 44, and is only a cab driver it may be cheap apartments or a shelter of some kind. The next source I found was the 1880 Census. Harrison is 47 and he is married to Josephine at this point. She is only 27. While she is “keeping house”, Harrison is now a laborer. Josephine was from England and may have been looking for refuge or help of some kind, coming to the States for the first time.

From there, the next source I was able to find  was from the year 1900. It is the twelfth census of the United States for Ellington. He was boarding there is interestingly his occupation, from what I can make out of the handwriting says either Hastler or Hustler. I looked up Hastler and nothing came up (because it is not a word), so I am assuming this man became a hustler. Finally, the 1910 Federal Census revealed that he is an inmate in the town of East Hartford, more specifically Hockanum. This would be interesting to dive into on whether or not there was a jail there.

I find it quite odd that no records came up of Harrison during the time of  murder. I also could not find his other wife (Elizabeth) or Josephine’s death records. I am not sure if it is poor record keeping or this records are deliberately not there. All things considered, the information provided does not allow me to come to the same conclusion that I have with Ada and Gregory. Harrison obviously lived a mysterious life of mischief with the information provided by the dossier’s, but Ancestry did not offer any way to connect the dots.  

The Evolution of Manhood & 19th Century Masculinity (and Male Violence)

This week our goal was to dig deeper into masculinity during the 19th century, to hopefully better understand the actions of the men in Ada Brown’s life, leading up to the violence that resulted in her death. To do this, we researched the evolution of manhood and masculinity and how this evolution may have influenced the men in our case and their actions.

To understand how 19th century masculinity impacted, especially Harrison, we need to first unpack the idea that there was an expectation of men at this time, to be a certain way, similar to the expectations of women to be a certain way. Just like we have discussed in previous weeks, not all women in the late 1800’s were living up to these gender expectations, same thing goes for men, especially working class men. Written by Michael Kimmel, “Manhood in America,” a secondary source on the, often overlooked, history of men as men, was our man source this week. In Kimmel’s book he discusses Sociologist Erving Goffman’s description of the “one complete unblushing male in America,” this was the standard of man that all other men had to hold themselves to (Kimmel 5). It was “a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height…” (Kimmel 5). Any man failing to meet this description often felt, according to Goffman, “unworthy, incomplete, and inferior,” (Kimmel 5). Although both Harrison and Gregory, fit some of the description, both of them fail to fit the entire bill. As failures to meet the expectations of traditionally accepted manhood, they face many struggles trying to prove their masculinity.

With the rise of industrialization, urbanization, technological advancements and immigration, the lives of traditional families, for both genders alike, faced drastic changes (Kimmel 83). This created overcrowded cities with jobless and low income families, headed by men who could not, alone, support their families. In the past, manhood equaled autonomy (Kimmel 83). Men were expected to support themselves and their dependents. But now, with urbanization and industrialization, more and more men were forced into dependency upon their wages. Less skilled working class men did not always make enough money to support their dependents. Sometimes their wives and children would have to work too, making many men feel like they were failing in their manly duties to be the breadwinner.

According to Kimmel, some scholars, like Samuel Elliott, concluded that when a man works a job where he is dependent upon his wages, he becomes a dependent (like women and children) and “the less of a man he becomes,” (Kimmel 84). This mentality, that a working class man, dependent upon his wages, is less of a man and less masculine, led to conflict. These working class men, also did not usually work what were considered to be dignified jobs, especially if it was a job that women could do. This also challenged their masculinity.

Also, an increased number of women started working between 1870 and 1900. The number of females employed went from 1.8 million (1870) to 5.3 million (1900). This was an increase from 16% to 20% of women working. Coming from a societal expectation that men were supposed to work and be the breadwinners, this continued increase in female employment, challenged that typically masculine role.

Kimmel argues that men were overwhelmed by the changes and the challenges they faced when it came to manhood and masculinity. Many men responded with resistance. Also, to some men, the best way to go about dealing with the gender landscape of the time was to “return to earlier historical notions of masculine virtue,” (Kimmel 89). This meant responding to their fear of failing at manhood by living their lives in a way in which they represented masculinity. According to Kimmel, Henry James, author of the novel “The Bostonians” (1885), “captured the anger and resentment many men had come to feel at the turn of the century,” (Kimmel 117). Working class men felt pressure, as a whole, that they lacked masculinity, which Kimmel defined as a set of behavioral traits and attitudes that contrasted femininity (Kimmel 120). They fear failing as men, being seen as feminine, sissy or gay (especially with the increased visibility of the male homosexual community at this time). These fears led men to do whatever they had to do to be seen as masculine.

A common rhetoric of manhood was, Kimmel writes according to historian Ted Ownby, “drinking, brawling, hunting, swearing, and even a revival of dueling as a tonic to restore lost manhood,” (Kimmel 124). These actions represent typical masculine traits of strength, power and independence. The emphasis on things like brawling, dueling and hunting points to male aggression and violence. Brawling and dueling represent expressions of masculinity and masculine responses in times of conflict. With all of this in mind, think about a working class man, like Harrison, while intoxicated, who might have felt his masculinity being questioned or threatened during the altercation with Ada Brown. It does not seem unlikely that he would resort to violence against a woman like Ada, who, herself, failed to fit the mold of female gender roles, to solve the problem and display his masculinity.

Harrison & Masculinity of the 19th Century

With Sam’s information on masculinity in the 19th century, I will attempt to close the gaps on the night of October 1884.  The idea that the more a man is dependent on his wages, “the less of a nam he becomes” mirrors the situation between Harrison and Ada. Harrison was dependent on the ten dollars that Ada had not given back to him, and had left him with what seemed to be no other choice (in his head), but to kill her. We can examine her murder in two ways, he is reacting to her not giving the money or he is reacting to her persona when refusing to not give the money. Sam spoke about returning to earlier historical notions of masculine virtue, meaning a man would react in the face of fear. Harrison stabbing Ada could have been the result of just that. He could have succumbed to the pressure of his job and societal standards, therefore reverting to violence, as Sam reiterated, does not seem unlikely.


Works Cited


Kimmel, Michael S. Manhood in America: A Cultural History. New York: Free, 1996. Print.



By: Sam, Bella & Lauren


The Stressful Life of Martin Harrison

Our post this week seeks to explore the possibility that mental illness caused by stressful living conditions lead to Harrison’s involvement in the murder of Ada Brown. Additionally we played with the idea that Harrison may have had a history of violence towards women, due to the deaths of not only four wives, but three daughters as well. Finally, we hope to illustrate how ill-equipped the criminal justice system may have been in regards to the treatment of mentally ill criminals.

Martin Harrison was born in approximately 1833, in Connecticut, rather than Massachusetts as we discussed in class. His job description on indicated that Harrison was a laborer, which would make sense for the time period. As discussed in our first post, the majority of Hartford’s economic welfare was centered on and around waterfronts. With the Industrial Revolution, businesses began to move away from the waterfronts, and shifted their focus towards banking and insurance, as opposed to river-commerce. This shift lead to the development of tenement living along the riverfronts. Living conditions were poor and often unsafe. Harrison lived on 64 Pleasant Street, which was less than a mile away from the Connecticut River, indicating that he was among those people who inhabited the riverfront tenements after the aforementioned economic shift. From this, we can make an educated guess that Harrison lived in very small quarters. His living space may not have been properly ventilated, and was likely to have been extremely unpleasant.

Studies have indicated that there is a correlation between living conditions and mental health. More specifically, there is a strong correlation between poor living conditions and increased amounts of stress. Stress is defined as “the unspecific physiological and psychological reaction to perceived threats to our physical, psychological or social integrity.”  (Adli, 2011) Using this definition for stress along with our knowledge of tenement conditions, it is clear that urban living, specifically tenement living, could have posed a threat to one’s mental health and their ability, then, to handle stress appropriately. For example, if one’s basic needs for shelter and safety are not adequately met, their mental wellbeing may be negatively compromised.

Pleasant Street during the 19th century was the home to many tenement buildings. Living conditions here were poor, like in any other tenement building, and could have been major stressors for their residents. From  an “evolutionary point of view, stress is the mechanism that prepares us for any ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction, and also causes us to evolve in order to better adapt to our environment.” (Adli, 2011) Living in an urban environment can be a potential risk factor for psychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder and schizophrenia. Social stress may contribute the most towards the increased risk of mental illness for those living in urban areas. “Living in crowded areas is associated with increased social stress, since the environment becomes less controllable for the individual.” (Adli, 2011) Urban dwellers have a 20% higher risk of developing anxiety disorders, and a 40 % higher risk of developing mood disorders. (Adli, 2011)  Harrison is a prime example of someone under extreme stress, and while there is no evidence that Harrison killed Ada due to stress, a connection can be inferred.  

The use of alcohol as both a recreational substance and as a coping mechanism would have been significant during Ada Brown’s lifetime. It would not have been uncommon for those under extreme amounts of stress to abuse alcohol in an attempt to cope. With the stress we can assume Harrison was experiencing, it would not be a stretch to assume he may have been overly dependant on alcohol to carry him through day to day life. As discussed in prior posts, it may have been possible that Harrison was an alcoholic. Alcoholism was, and is still today, considered a mental illness. If Harrison had underlying mental health issues in addition to a potential drinking problem, this might give us more insight into how the events on the night of Ada’s murder unfolded, since we know that both Ada and Harrison had been drinking that evening.

There is also a correlation between urban living and increased crime rates. The characteristics that go hand in hand with this correlation include the social influences and family structure of those who have committed a crime. As stated in both the dossier and previous post, Harrison had four wives. Elizabeth Harrison was a wife of Martin Harrison. Elizabeth and Martin had three children together, all of whom died in 1863. Harrison’s first daughter,  Anna R. Harrison was born in Hartford in 1858, and died on August 11, 1863 at the age of 5. Georgia O Harrison was born in 1862, and died on July 22, 1863. Their last daughter,  Flora F. Harrison passed away on June 25, 1863; Her date of birth was unknown. All three daughters died within 47 days of each other. Even though I was able to find the information on Elizabeth and Martin’s children, I was not able to find any direct information on Elizabeth herself.  Another wife of Harrison’s was a young woman from England named Josephine Harrison (maiden name not found). She was a housekeeper, and tended to their home on Pleasant Street. However Josephine was 20 years younger than Harrison, and passed away at 27, in 1880, four years before Ada’s death. I was not able to find information on Harrison’s other two wives. The services for each deceased wife were paid for by the state. It is possible that Harrison, as a result of extreme stress, had a part in the deaths of his wives and daughters. However, there is no clear evidence so we are left to guess what truly happened to these women.

After the death of his last wife, Harrison was advised to go to the hospital.We are not clear on whether this was a mental institution or a general hospital, but given the possibility of his alcoholism and possible additional mental health concerns, one might guess he was sent for psychiatric care.  At this point in history treatment options existed beyond family, with custody and care for the individual, to lodging the mentally ill in a workhouse or abandoning them. This was also the time where private madhouses were established and were opened to the public to those who could afford treatment. Harrison however had no family whom could of abandoned him in a hospital, nor did he have the means to go to a private established madhouse, due to the fact that the state was paying for the services of his wives.

After killing Ada Brown, Harrison was issued to Wethersfield State Prison on January ninth, 1885, for seven years under the crime of manslaughter.  During this time in history, there was little knowledge within the legal system on how to treat those with mental illness  who have committed a crime. Untrained, unqualified individuals treated mentally ill patients like animals, with no respect and justified their treatment with the illness, staffed a majority of prisons and asylums. We can see this in the Auburn System. Last week we spoke briefly on the Auburn system, which was a penal method in the 19th century, by making the inmates work during the day in groups, but were kept in solitary confinement at night, which enforced silence at all times. This concept was very hard on the mental ill. Many mentally ill inmates did not understand the concept of their punishment and could not see what they did was wrong, and how being in solitary confinement would help their situation.  Even though I was able to find information on the mentally ill and punishments, I was unsuccessful in finding information on punishment times.

In conclusion, the inherent stress of tenement living, mixed with a inclination towards (or addiction to) alcohol, as well as a potential inclination towards violence, (as seen in the deaths of all four of his previous wives),  may have lead to Harrison’s involvement in the murder of Ada Brown. Upon sentencing, it is possible that Harrison was issued a lighter sentence and sent to Wethersfield State Prison to live under the Auburn System because the justice system was unsure of what else to do regarding a mentally ill criminal.

Works Cited

Lea Johnston, Vulnerability and Just Desert: A Theory of Sentencing and Mental Illness, 103 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 147 (2013).

Melamed, Y. (2010). Mentally ill persons who commit crimes: Punishment or treatment? ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY, 38(1), 100–103. Retrieved from

Adli, M. (2011, November). Stress – Health, Empathy & Evolution | Cheryl Stringall … Retrieved November 6, 2016,

Police Work, Press, and an Excellent Adventure in Hartford

A Brief Overview of Adventures

This week Grace and Jess visited the Connecticut State Library and the Hartford Public Library, where the Hartford History Center is located. We first started at the state library and did not have much luck, other than requesting some archived material involving court records. We then went to the city library and on our way we drove on Sheldon Street, which was awesome! After unsuccessfully attempting to access the Hartford History Center because it was not yet opened, we were asked to contribute to a weaving project for the city of Hartford, symbolizing that people are beautiful and better when woven together. (We took pictures of this adventure!) At the library, after a lovely woman took the time to hunt us down, and after we were originally turned away due to the Center not being open to the public yet, we were allowed special access into the History Center for a half-hour and were finally able to start our research. The fantastic thing was that all of this happened in between 9:30am and 11:40am, and we were still able to make our noon classes/appointments at USJ!   

Policing and a Touch of Politics

This week, while investigating the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library, we found information in the Hartford Municipal Records of 1884 that revealed some interesting insights about the Hartford police force, as well as some more information on Mayors Joseph Sprague and Morgan Bulkeley.

By the year 1884, Morgan Bulkeley was the Mayor of Hartford. However, former Mayor Joseph Sprague was not completely forgotten on the political scene. In the 1884 Municipal Records, there are multiple different boards of commissioners listed, including boards of Park Commissioners, Fire Commissioners, and Police Commissioners. Sprague is listed in the records as being the president of the Hartford Street Commissioners. What exactly that would have entailed in 1884 we are not quite sure. By looking at other cities’ street commissioners, it appears that street commissioners were in charge of things like removal of refuse and garbage from the city and making sure the city streets were generally up-kept. Yet, this position is a definite step-down from mayor, and so, though Sprague kept some form of political power, it was nowhere near the sort of power he had in the 1870s during his term as mayor.

Another interesting thing we found under the listings of board commissioners was the fact that Mayor Morgan Bulkeley was also listed as the president of the board of Police Commissioners. We found out some information that states the mayor is usually the one who appoints the police commissioners, but this source was not a reliable one, and so more research would have to be done in order to verify that information. However it occurred, it is an undeniable fact that Mayor Bulkeley was the president of the board of Police Commissioners, at least in 1884. This would make sense, as we already know he had a hand in reinstating Chief Packard as the chief of police in 1882.

        A further question that came up was whether Joseph Sprague was on the board of police commissioners during his term as mayor, and if he was, how that might have positively or negatively affected the police force. We wish to do further research in future ventures to the Hartford History Center, in order to determine if Sprague was also the Police Commissioner when he was mayor.

Also contained in the Hartford Municipal Records was the annual report given by Chief of Police, Caleb L. Packard. In the report, Packard states that as of March 31, 1884, there is a total of “…one Chief, one Captain, one Lieutenant, and forty-five policemen doing regular duty” (Hartford Municipal Records- Police Report). Packard then goes on to specify that three of those police officers had special, assigned duties within the city. One officer is assigned to the Police Court, one to the Union Depot, and the last serves as Truant Officer for thirteen different schools. According to Packard, this left forty-two policemen to “perform the various duties and requirements that are made of the ‘police force,’ and to do the patrol duty of the city day and night” (Police Report). Only forty-two policemen patrolling the entire city of Hartford seems like a somewhat small number. Packard certainly believed so, and stated in his report his repeated requests to increase the numbers of the police force.

To tie this to the case, we know from our dossier that there were policemen nearby to hear cries for help during Ada Brown’s murder. If three of the forty-two men from the police force ended up patrolling near Sheldon Street, we can conclude that Sheldon Street was probably a location that tended to have larger amounts of violence occur in the vicinity. Though we did not have enough information to follow through on that much further, we did learn of an interesting fact that ties into the police station. The Hartford Municipal records documented that the address for the Police Station was No. 38 Kinsley Street in Hartford. Though we did not have a chance to look at a contemporary map of Hartford from the 1880s, we did use current maps and located the address of 38 Kinsley Street. We calculated that it was approximately a half-mile from the Police Station to Sheldon Street where Ada Brown’s home was located. Considering that Hartford was not a small city in the 1880s, a half-mile between the Harford Police Station and Sheldon Street is quite close.

Another relevant note to make is that Ada’s murder happened in October of 1884, and we found that the municipal records only went to the end of March of the year listed. Therefore, the municipal records for 1884 were more accurately the end of the year 1883 and the beginning of the year 1884. If we are able to, we are going to try and look into Hartford’s Municipal Records for 1885, as that will reiterate the rest of the year 1884, which will cover the time of Ada’s murder.

The report below came from the Municipal Records from 1884 that we located at the Hartford History Center. This specific table comes from the annual police chief’s report from January 1884- March 1884. The report was written in April by Police Chief Packard. This report shows the number of crimes committed under each category which entails a variety of crimes ranging from murder to “bad boys” and “bad girls”. These records indicate that up until this point in 1884 there was only one murder committed and this was before Ada’s murder in October. This one occurrence of murder reveals that this is not a very common crime that is reported. It also shows that the crimes that occur the most are assault and battery and breach of peace, which both may have to do with people’s levels of intoxication, leading further to the conclusion that alcohol does indeed increase the rate of crime and violence as seen similarly in Ada Brown’s murder.


(Picture: Hartford Public Library’s Hartford History Center)


The Press

To delve deeper into how the papers talk about the murder, I thought it would be interesting to bring up another murder of a young lower class girl and see the similarities and differences of how The Hartford Courant and The New York Times bring up both murders. I am going to compare the way the papers talk about the women and the way they talk about the murders.

So let’s take a look at the murder of Mary Stannard, a young servant girl from New Haven CT who was killed because she was thought be be pregnant with the child of a prominent Connecticut Minister, Herbert Hayden (Timelines of History). For some time, Hayden had an affair with Stannard while his pregnant wife fell ill. After she had the child he moved back with her and the affair ended until a couple month later when Stannard started showing signs of an early pregnancy (Timelines of History). They met up and Hayden told Stannard that he would be able to pick up medicine so that she could abort the baby. She agreed because she had already had one kid out of wedlock and couldn’t afford another. They agreed to meet in the woods between their houses (Timelines of History). Later that night Mary Stannard’s father found her lain on a big rock with her neck slashed open and a large head wound (Timelines of History).. She was only suspected murdered after the coroner found arsenic in her system; the same exact arsenic that Hayden bought that day. He was arrested and later tried for first degree murder and assault which he was freed from because the jury couldn’t evict him because he beautiful wife would be a poor widow (Timelines of History).

Now there are similarities and differences in this case compared to the other case. It is interesting because The New York Times  talks about the murder differently compared to The Hartford Courant. I think that the reason why they do is because The Hartford Courant’s closer to where the murder of Ada Brown and Mary Stannard. The New York Times however is farther away so they don’t bring in a lot of the drama that comes with a town paper. For starters, The New York Times did a very getting straight to the point and being concise in what they wrote. On another side note, both Harrison and Hayden killed their victims (Ada and Mary) the same exact way. Both Mary and Ada bleed out before anyone could get medical attention immediately. The difference is that Harrison to some degree seemed to accept the fact that he was guilty and that we would pay for what he did but Hayden on the other hand denied it the entire time even though the evidence and the witnesses all pointed to him.

So first off I wanted to analyze the difference in how the Hartford Courant talks about Ada Brown to Mary Stannard. When they talk about Mary Stannard, they make it seem like “poor Mary”, which is interesting because when Ada is murder they make it seem like she almost deserved it. I don’t think it is bad that they make Mary seem like a poor lady that was unfortunately killed but they did not give the same courtesy to Ada. My only guess would be because Ada was murdered in Hartford, where the newspaper is based out of, that they were more likely to set a very dramatic scene about her rather than Mary, who is from New Haven. There was also probably much more gossip from Ada’s murder so The Hartford Courant was able to take that and turn it around and make Ada seem like a bad person, whereas Mary was talked about as if she was this poor, young, single mother who was helpless. In some ways they do talk about both women similarly. The Hartford Courant brings up Mary and Ada as “fallen”, which according to Jennifer Cote in her book, American Catholic studies page 23, “…referred to a wide range of young women in industrial America..” (Cote 23). The way The New York Times perceives both women is very similar. The only difference that I could see was they did not sensationalize the women nearly as much in The New York Times, or any of the people that were involved with this case.

The other thing that I wanted analyze was the way The Hartford Courant and The New York Times spoke of both of the murderers, which incidentally ended up being prominent white males. When both of the papers talked about Harrison and Hayden they deemed them very strong `but misguided people. When the murder of Ada Brown happened, everyone jumped on board to see what Harrison and Gregory both had to say about the death of this “fallen” widowed woman (Murder in Sheldon Street, Dossier Materials). The Hartford Courant especially were making sure they sensationalize these men. It is very interesting because in present times, if some guy kills a woman he gets harrassed thrown in jail for a long sentence and most try to hide from the media but in this time period it didn’t seem like Harrison nor Hayden tried to stay away from the press, instead they almost embraced the popularity. Another thing I thought was interesting is when they talk about Harrison and Hayden, they refer to them by their last names or Mr. rather than their first names. The women were not regarded this way at all which is weird because they seem to get a lot of respect even though they had just murdered a person.



And here are some pictures! A huge thank you to the amazing people at the Hartford Public Library and the Hartford History Center!

Works Cited

“Timelines of History.” Timelines. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“The CT Files: The ‘Unsolved’ Murder of Mary Stannard.” The Connecticut Story CT Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.

“Hadens Story Attack.” Dossier Materials. New York Times, n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“The Madison Murder.” ProQuest. Hartford Courant, 16 Sept. 1878. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“The Hayden Trial.” ProQuest. Hartford Courant, 05 Dec. 1879. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“Garbage, Refuse, and Ashes. Care and Disposal.” Public Health Reports (1896-1970). Published by: Association of Schools of Public Health. Accessed 11/4/16.

Municipal Register: City of Harford 1884. Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library. Visited on 11/2/16.

Gender Roles in the 19th Century: The Male Perspective


By: Isabella, Sam & Lauren


In contrast to our previous discussions on gender, this week, we will be focusing on the male perspective. Our goal is to dig deeper into the background of and the lives of the two major men involved in the murder of Ada Brown: Martin Harrison and George Gregory. Our intention is also to start to understand the gender roles, specific to men in the 1880’s, in the hopes of understanding and contextualizing the series of events leading up to the murder and eventually, the events that followed.

Martin Harrison

This week I am going to be focusing my attention on Martin Harrison. Harrison was 50 years of age at the time of the crime and was a widower. He had lost four wives previous to Ada.  To earn a living, he worked as a city driver. Harrison had been living at 26 Sheldon Street with Ada at the time of the murder. After the murder happened, Harrison was taken to the hospital, where he was monitored until he made a recovery. According to article 4, he was making progress with his recovery two days after the crime. Article 5 stated that a warrant was issued for his arrest for the murder of Ada. The warrant was served to him at the hospital and it was ordered that a special officer was to stay with Harrison in his room to ensure he wouldn’t try to leave the hospital once he gained his strength back.

Harrison has had a lot of help from the city in previous years. All of the expenses for the burials of his previous four wives have been taken care of by either the town or outside charities.(Article 6) I have yet to find more information as to why he was given so much aid for the burials of his four wives. There is a chance he had some sort of personal relationship with someone who worked for the state. I hope to find out more and report back next week with my findings. We also learned in Article 6 that Harrison was ordered to go to the hospital. We are unsure of what hospital he was ordered to go to. Given the facts of his past, (the deaths of his four wives) I am going to make the assumption that it was some sort of mental hospital. I am also going to assume he didn’t go because he didn’t want to seem weak.

Harrison had requested a trial separate from Gregory’s because he believed that some of the evidence had nothing to do with him. (Article 10) Harrison was tried in the Superior court in January of 1885 and was sentenced to 7 years for manslaughter. Two days after Harrison was sentenced to state prison, he decided that giving a confession would be “good for his soul”. (Article 13) He decided to tell the whole story of that happened to Ada on the night of her murder. But insisted that he did not try to take his own life, but rather Gregory took a knife to his throat.

George Gregory

George W. Gregory is a hard man to track down, despite all the information given in the dossiers. This week I plan to break down who he is and examine what events within his life led him to be in the same apartment as Ada Brown and Martin V.B. Harrison on the night of October 20th, 1884. In order to gather a substantial bit of information, I started with his father S.W. Gregory, who, according to article 1 page three, built “Gregory’s block on State Street.” With the help of newspaper ads, and I was able to figure out that Gregory’s block was actually a series of fruit stands or fruit grocers on State street in Hartford. The same man, S.W. Gregory, could then be identified as Simeon W. Gregory. I found a series of documents that explained his business, sales etc., unfortunately, the handwriting made it hard to decipher the specifics. Going further into his life I found that he married a woman named Martha Hunt and had three kids, none of which named George W. Gregory. With this, there are two possibilities that come to mind that explain the lack of info on George.

First, after the incident between Gregory and a young woman with whom he was married, his father disowned him. She was described as a “woman of easy virtue”, which is not a compliment, as we have learned. He had “fired a pistol ball into [her] head” and she survived. All of this information was found in article 1, page three of the dossiers. As a respected man in Hartford, Simeon W. Gregory was forced to leave his son behind in order to keep up with his business’ reputation. His son being married to a loose woman reflects poorly on the family, leaving him no other choice. If it is not the woman, it is the fact he tried to kill her. A son with such a harsh past that could be brought to light at any moment was not something that his father wanted to risk at the expense of his business. To further support his abandonment, during the trial Gregory did not look for a lawyer. Article six, says that “he doesn’t require any and hasn’t the money to pay for lawyers if he chose to hire them.” Without the support of his father, his current clerk job (that may have been at one of his father’s shops because after his father’s death he no longer was a clerk) at the time was not enough to pay for counsel. His financial status is what also led him to meeting Ada Brown. She was in the same financial position, which led her to that area of Hartford. Sheldon Street, as described in the dossiers, was one full of lower class working people following the job market.

Second, the most plausible, being that he is not included in any documents because he was born out of wedlock. George W. Gregory, like Lena Brown, took the name of his father, but there is no substantial evidence of S.W. Gregory being his father except for the claim in the dossier. This would explain why even though S.W. Gregory had a spouse, George is not listed as one of his children. Without the knowledge of his mother, his identity becomes almost impossible to find. From here we can assume a few things. The first being that the mother may have died, and his father took him in. The second, explains his employment.  According to Ancestry, his buildings were from 78-82 state street and from 1876-1877 he shifted from 82 to 82 state street. His father may have employed him at one of his business, and allowed him to live there. This would explain the change in addresses, but continuing to live on State Street. He would go to whichever place that would need a clerk ( Finally, after his father passes in 1877, the address of Mrs. S.W. Gregory matches that of George. The business, most likely, was left to fail because there was no one left to take care of it. Women at this time, could not control business and a son out of wedlock coming out of nowhere and running the business could jeopardize it as well. The only born son between him and Martha at the time was only about fourteen years old, not old enough to run a business. George was most likely forced to move in with his step mom, because losing the business meant losing not only his job, but his home. Another very interesting fact is that ancestry even says that the three children born from his father and Martha are his “Half Sisters” and “Half Brother”, but I digress. We can explain his financial crisis during the trial with this information as well, and we can also conclude that this is what led him to meet Ada Brown. Ada was a woman who had been singled out for her status within society and George could sympathize with her, making them very close. During this time, society’s pressure was imminent and maybe finding someone in the same situation called for a closeness we cannot really understand.

All things considered, I will not attempt to conclude what had occurred within the home on Sheldon Street! The similar situations between Gregory and Ada may have sparked something in their relationship, causing him to maybe protect Ada in stabbing Harrison. Gregory’s father’s business is what brought them together, most likely. When google mapping the streets, assuming there is not a lot of change from now and then, State Street and Sheldon Street is only a block away from each other. According to Gregory, they were close friends, even “sweethearts” and being that close to each other made it easy for the relationship to blossom. After researching Ada, and connecting that maybe Harrison was the financial support for her, Gregory could have been the emotional support. The two men had different vendettas for being in the apartment that night. With all of this information fathered, I believe that Ada was stabbed by Harrison in his range over the $10 because he lacked the emotional connection to her (or any woman in that case i.e. four wives). Gregory was the one that cared about her and fought back in the name of Ada. Harrison did in fact say that Gregory stabbed him, but that, I believe, is as far as it gets.

Gender Roles / Separate Spheres Ideology

During the 19th Century, the prevailing understanding of gender roles and dynamics was the Separate Spheres Ideology. There were two spheres: the public sphere and the private sphere. Women were expected to remain in the private sphere, while men remained in the public sphere. Therefore, a woman’s place was the home and men were expected to be working and providing for the family, as the breadwinner. These societal expectations of either gender that persisted throughout the 19th century, were tested when, at the end of the 19th century, these spheres felt a shift, partially due to the rise of the New Woman.

According to Barbara Laslett and Johanna Brenner in their article titled, “Gender and Social Reproduction,” the 19th century idea of Separate Spheres dominated both European and North American understanding of gender roles (Laslett and Brenner 386). Laslett and Brenner also write that men held power and control in their families, “as property-holders and legal representatives of their households, men directed household labor and monopolized political, religious, and domestic authority,” (Laslett and Brenner 386). Within the ideology of Separate Spheres, it is important to acknowledge that the typical gender roles in the 19th century were modeled after the middle-class family hierarchy (Gender Roles and Relations). A typical middle class family was headed by the father who, as part of his existence as a man, was expected to be the breadwinner and provide for his family. In contrast to that, the home was the woman and mother’s world. However, most lower-working-class families did not exactly follow this pattern. Compared to the middle-class, both men and women in the working-class experienced gender differently, because they did not usually fit neatly into their expected roles.

Unless you were a highly-skilled and/or unionized male worker, Laslett and Brenner point out, that not all men were able to earn enough wages to be the only provider for their family. This is especially true for working-class and immigrant households (Laslett and Brenner 389). The expectation that men must be breadwinners for their families, puts an immense amount of societal pressure on on working-class husbands and male providers. Often women in working-class families were forced to work, for the sake of their family’s survival, even then, women made a fraction of their male counterparts.

In the case of Ada Brown who was a widow, she was living with and in some sort of relationship with Martin Harrison. Besides the fact that they were definitely not well off, it is unclear what their financial situation was and how their financial relationship was. We do know, however, from the Dossier, that Brown and Harrison had an intense argument about $10 of Harrison’s wages, leading to the murder. It appeared that Ada Brown felt that she was, as Harrison’s lover and partner, entitled to a share of his earnings to support them: including him, her child, and herself. However, Harrison wanted control over his earnings, he wanted to take his wages and go out with a friend. Even though Harrison and Brown were not married, it appears that they faced some of the challenges regarding working-class gender roles within the family. Gender roles and the idea of Separate Spheres appear to be so deeply ingrained in societal expectations that it permeated even unmarried couples. The expectation that the male is supposed to provide for the women and children within their family, even if they are of the working-class and make insufficient wages, in the case of Ada Brown, led to a very violent altercation.

This week, I did struggle trying to find good, scholarly sources that helped to contextualize men in the way that we have worked on understanding women in the late 1800’s. I do think that we need to spend more time fleshing out these ideas in conjunction with secondary sources that analyze how men are impacted by the changing gender landscape at this time. I think, in the coming weeks, looking in domestic violence, specially male violence, could also be helpful in contextualizing this case.



“Gender Roles and Relations.” Encyclopedia of American Social History. Ed. Mary Kupiec

Cayton, Elliott J. Gorn, and Peter W. Williams. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993.

U.S. History in Context. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

Laslett, Barbara, and Johanna Brenner. “Gender and Social Reproduction: Historical            

Perspectives.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 15, 1989, pp. 381–404.


Last week we briefly discussed the legal system and the history dating back to the 1700s to depict how the laws have progressed throughout time. This week we will be going into thorough detail about the legal system to further our understanding of Harrison’s case. In addition, examples of other cases during Ada Brown’s time will be discussed so that we can get a better understanding of how the legal system worked.

The advancements of the legal systems were very limited. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Hartford, CT established its legal system and that consisted of uneducated, unprofessional officials. On the other hand, the one aspect that has progressively changed was the execution by methods, and all the other factors involved such as, crime, gender, race, and so on. According to a 32 year old study of executions in the US, as time progressed, the rate of executions under legal civil authority increased dramatically. As you can see from the table beneath, executions significantly rose from 1825-1925. Executions during the 1800s were mostly due to murder or rape. This is relevant to Ada Brown because it depicts that during her existence, rate of crime was high and normal, therefore, it was not uncommon for murder to occur. The first method of execution was beheading in the 1600s, then as time went by it was a mix of hanging, and firing squad.  Furthermore, two convicts were executed in the 1800s near the time of Ada Brown’s murder, in the method of hanging from committing murder.screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-11-05-35-pm

On October 1, 1827, the Wethersfield State Prison, located on State Street and overlooking the Connecticut River, opened for operation. This new operation held 121 inmates under the care of Warden Moses Pillsbury. The Wethersfield State prison replaced the Newgate Prison in Simsbury which operated from 1773 to 1827. However due to it being underdeveloped and outdated, the new central prison took over.

The Wethersfield State Prison was founded on the correctional method, Auburn system, a regimen of strict silence for prisoners at all time, which allowed them for social solitude to reflect on their crimes. The prison also allowed inmate to be employed in prison trade shops during the day and confirmed to their cells at all other times throughout the duration of their stay. Some may see Wethersfield as a place for harsh punishments, but for its time, it was an institution on the cutting edge of prison reform. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political author and historian visited the institution in 1831 calling it a “Model institution with extreme mildness.”

Both male and female prisoners were housed in separate housing units in the prison. Incarcerated women took on their “normal” womanly duties such as cooking, cleaning, and repairing clothing which was used in the prison, as well as making cigars. While male prisoners worked as carpenters, coopers who made bound wooden vessels-barrels, tailors, and blacksmiths. Until 1880, prison labor supported the cost of running the facility. Wethersfield was known for prisoners to serve long to life sentences at this maximum-security facility. Those who severed their time in Wethersfield, served time from stealing horses, arson, to murder. Between 1894 and 1960 seventy-three prisoners were executed at the prison, with 55 being hung before the method was stopped in the 1930’s. Harrison was issued to Wethersfield State Prison on January ninth, 1885, for seven years, under the crime of manslaughter.

On September 2nd, 1883 a woman by the name of Rose Clark Ambler was found dead in the streets of Stratford, CT. The cause of death was beating and stabbing. This was known as the Raven Stream Crime because that is where her body was found. Her case was one of the top unsolved crimes in Connecticut during that time. Rose was last seen by her fiance William Lewis who was the primary suspect in her case. It was never solved because there was no evidence to connect William to Rose’s death, there was only a theory that he was jealous and thought Rose was having an affair. Rose left her fiance’s father’s house around 10:00 at night and was headed to her home about a mile and a half away. Rose was not carrying any money and there was no apparent motive to the crime. The autopsy revealed she was not raped which made the case that much more difficult in understanding. The interesting part about her case was that a reward of $300, later raised to $1,000 was offered for any information. The dedication and hard work that was put into her case by both the coroner, and police department was significantly different than the work put into Ada Brown’s case. The detectives in her case were asking all the residents that lived where Rose was found questions on if they heard or saw anything. In Ada Brown’s case Gregory and Harrison were the key suspects and they were also used as witnesses to each others crime which made no sense whatsoever. In fact, the coroner kept spelling Ada’s full name of Frances, two different way (Francis and Frances), which seems very unprofessional that her real name could not even be spelt right. Ultimately, even though Rose’s case could not be solved, it was handled with hard working detectives and a coroner that questioned many people, and gathered as much evidence as possible to come up with a motive. It is significant to Ada Brown’s case because it was near the same time and they were handled very differently which was interesting to find out.

-Angie, Ashley, Lauren

Works Cited

Daniels, R., Harvey, J., & says, R. D. (2014, November 17). Wethersfield house tour. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from

HOFFMAN, C., & Courant, S. to T. (2014, September 4). Hartford courant: Connecticut breaking news, UConn sports, business, entertainment, weather and traffic – Hartford courant. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from

Library, C. S., Powered, & Ray, A. (2016). Wethersfield prison record warrants. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from

PORTER, M., mmporter, & Courant, H. (2014, April 30). Serial poisoner Lydia Sherman: Connecticut’s “Lucrezia Borgia.” Retrieved October 30, 2016, from

Wilhelm, Robert. “The Raven Stream Crime.” Murder by Gaslight:. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

“Death Penalty” Proconorg Headlines. N.p., n.d Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

Police, Press, and Politics

This week it was difficult to find more information about Mayor Sprague and Police Chief Chamberlain, who for a while replaced Police Chief Packard. I did however find the reason that Packard eventually left the position of police chief after eleven consecutive years in the position. “January 1, 1893. The commission was in session, and after a discussion of several burglaries which had taken place upon the Hill, Chief Packard was called into the room and his resignation was asked for” (Weaver). This explains his eventual resignation and it was about crimes upon the Hill, which in my research I believe to be referencing the area around Asylum Hill neighborhood, which is known as one of Hartford’s most iconic, well known historic neighborhoods in the present day. This is the area in which Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe stayed, among a few other notable people (Asylum Hill).

It is also significant to note that Chief Packard was well liked and left office with a large amount of gold worth 110 dollars at the time, and every member of the force contributed towards this gift in gold (Weaver). This is all important in understanding the reign of Chief Packard and the fact that the whole force did indeed like him, despite his previous removal by Mayor Sprague. I did find an interesting lead, with the potential reason for this change of chiefs by Mayor Sprague possibly being related to the Jewish Community. I found a book about the Jewish community in Hartford, and about Mayor Sprague and Chief Chamberlain both attending the opening of a Jewish Synagogue in Hartford. From the book it seems unclear if this alludes to the fact they are both members of the Jewish community or were just attending a celebration held by members in the community (Dalin). I would like to say the strong ties of both men being Jewish explains why Packard was originally replaced. This would also explain the weird behavior and Sprague’s insistence on again hiring Chamberlain after he was forced to resign. I will continue to look into this idea, to try to prove they are both Jewish men, and if needed, look into the growing Jewish community at the time and see if it is relevant to explaining politics and police work. This is the information I have found this week when I tried to find the reason Mayor Sprague had Packard replaced, and I found more information on how the Police force actually felt about Packard, which was positive.


This week I attempted to do more research on the three mayors of Hartford surrounding the general time period of Ada Brown’s case. I specifically focused on Joseph H. Sprague, George G. Sumner, and Morgan G. Bulkeley.

Joseph H. Sprague was mayor of Hartford from April 1874 to April 1878. Though the time that Sprague served as mayor was somewhat earlier than the year that Ada Brown was murdered, I still felt that he was an important figure to try and cover, since last week, Jess researched information that related to a conflict between Mayor Sprague and Police Chief Packard.

However, to my surprise, I uncovered little to no information on the details of Sprague’s time as mayor. He was a member of the Democratic party, and was the twenty-third mayor of Hartford, but other than that, I found very little information on whether he was popular as mayor or not, or how politically savvy he was during his time as mayor.

I uncovered slightly more information about Sprague’s successor, George G. Sumner. Sumner served as mayor from 1878 to 1880, and was also a member of the Democratic party. Sumner seemed to be a popular politician, and a well-received mayor. Later in his life, Sumner fell ill from an undisclosed disease, and an article from the New York Times lamented his failing health, and praised him highly, referring to him as, “the most genial and popular leader of the democracy in Connecticut” (N.Y. Times Article).

The third mayor I researched was Morgan G. Bulkeley, who served as mayor after Sumner from 1880 to 1888. Unlike Sprague and Sumner, Mayor Bulkeley was a member of the Republican party. His father was Judge Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley, who was the first president of Aetna Life Insurance. Morgan Bulkeley became the third president of the company after both his father and his father’s business successor, Thomas Ostrom Enders, had retired. Bulkeley served four terms as mayor of Hartford and had much support from the city of Hartford during these four terms. To quote Hartford in 1912, “[Bulkeley] is qualified by intellect, energy, tact and progressiveness for the great responsibilities as are very few men. Outside of financial circles Mr. Bulkeley is just as well known, having been Mayor of Hartford, Governor of the state and a United States Senator” (Hartford in 1912).

Tying this research back to our original topic of police work in Hartford, one must look at the evidence that has already been found so far. Jess has already found that there was tension between Mayor Sprague and Police Chief Packard, to the point where Packard was asked to resign his position. However, Packard was not reinstated until April of 1882, two years into the first term of Mayor Bulkeley. Though we do not know much about Sprague, we do know that both he and Sumner were Democrats, which could suggest they would have focused on similar agendas during their time as mayor of Hartford. However, Bulkeley was a Republican, which would suggest that his agenda as mayor would have differed from the two mayors who served before him. I am planning on continuing to research more into what specifically being a “Democrat” and “Republican” meant in the United States during the late 1800s, and how a Republican mayor like Morgan Bulkeley would have influenced the city of Hartford leading up to the year of Ada Brown’s murder.


Since last week was a little rough, we decided to research the press a little differently. We looked at what the definition of the press is. We also looked at how The Hartford Courant and The New York Times came about. The reason why we want to also look at The New York Times is so that we have something to compare The Hartford Courant to. We want to eventually look into the difference of how these two papers represent the case.

The definition of ‘the press’ is, “The release of a statement that is written  to communicate directly to certain audiences for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy” (Dictionary). To clarify, ‘ostensibly’ means apparently, but perhaps not really (Dictionary).

For Connecticut, The Hartford Courant was a great source for bringing in news and history unlike any other paper. People were well informed of the important events that happened locally and nationally. The paper was founded prior to American Independence, and is one of the oldest newspapers in the US due the fact that it is still publishing today (Connecticut History). The paper was founded in October of 1764. At the time it was called The Connecticut Courant but it eventually changed to The Hartford Courant (Connecticut History). We couldn’t find what year it was actually changed but we do know that it was changed. The author of the newspaper, Thomas Green, made his first issue just four pages long, with the hopes of informing the world about important events that would happen locally and nationally (Connecticut History). Green sold his paper to his assistant, Ebenezer Watson, who then built his own paper mill nearby to decrease the paper shortage. When Watson died from smallpox in 1777, his wife, Hannah Bunce Watson, took over the paper and became, “one of the first female publishers in America” (Connecticut History). Interestingly enough, The Hartford Courant covered The Stamp Act, The Boston Tea Party, and even printed out a copy of the Declaration of Independence (Connecticut History). The paper also originally covered important events around the colonies, such as the Revolutionary War. After the war, the paper started printing out ads for people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. When a new transportation era came about, it published Robert Fulton’s steamboat voyage, which went from Albany to New York City (Connecticut History). The paper also published articles with pro-slavery sentiments, which were to help capture slaves that ran away.

We also looked at the history of The New York Times. The New York Times was founded in 1851 by Henry Jarvis Raymond and George Jones. The original name for the paper was The New York Daily Times (Nytco). When Raymond died in 1886, Jones took over as publisher for the paper. They covered events such as the first telephone being made, the use of electricity, and even when the first ball dropped on Times Square to celebrate the new year (Nytco). We couldn’t find as much information from scholarly websites. There is more information out there about the history of The New York Times but a lot of information that we wanted to include came from wikipedia and encyclopedia sources.

You’re probably wondering how this ties into the Ada Brown case. We wanted to show the differences between the two papers because both of the papers talked about the murder case. As we have stated before, The Hartford Courant sensationalized women.  “In one article, when they are talking about Ada Brown’s murder,  they say “Ada Brown, aged 28, a fallen woman, was killed” (Article 1, Hartford Courant). By bringing to the front the view that Ada Brown was morally depraved and “fallen,” the press was able to sensationalize her death, while simultaneously degrading her status as a woman. Morality was still an important topic in the 1880s and this shows through by the press emphasizing Ada’s frowned-upon lifestyle” (Brenna, Grace, and Jess). The New York Times talks about the case differently. As an opening statement they say, “a remarkable trial for manslaughter has been in progress in the in the supreme court” (NYT 1, Dossier Materials). The paper seem to get straight to the point rather than sensationalize people. When they referred to Ada, they made her seem like a human being rather than an object. It is interesting because they don’t sugar coat what went on the night of the murder, and it made more sense to us than reading The Hartford Courant version of events.




Works Cited

“The Definition of Media.” N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

By 1925 It Will Have 100 Photographers and Assistants. Sold to The A.P. in 1941. “Menu.” The New York Times Company. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

“” ConnecticutHistoryorg The Oldest US Newspaper in Continuous Publication Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

Dalin, David G., and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Making a Life: Building a Community. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1998. Print.

“Asylum Hill.” LiveHartford. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

Weaver, Thomas S. Historical Sketch of the Police Service of Hartford, from 1636 to 1801, from Authoritative Sources. Illustrating and Describing the Economy, Equipment and Effectiveness of the Police Force of To-day. With Reminiscences of the Past, including Some Notes of Important Cases. Hartford: Hartford Police Mutual Aid Association, 1901. Print.

Mayors of Hartford., 1999-2013, Accessed 30 October 2016.

Hartford in 1912: Story of the Capital City, Present and Prospective. Hartford Post, 1912. Online. Accessed 30 October 2016.

“A Popular Politician; The Hon. George G. Sumner of Connecticut in Very Bad Health.” The New York Times. Accessed October 29, 2016.

Who was Ada?


Last week we talked about the changes in gender dynamics at the end of the 19th century. We touched on working women, the changes in how women were both viewed and viewed themselves, and the New Woman. We also talked about children and families and their role. This week, our goal is to dive deeper into the connections we can make between what we know and Ada’s murder, using more scholarly sources and making more direct connections to Ada.

Firstly, we are going to talk about some statistics more relevant to the case, about working women in 1883 from Carroll Wright’s study based in Boston, Mass. After that, we are going to dive a little deeper into who Ada Brown was, where she came from, how that impacted what happened to her, her employment, and how we can connect all of this knowledge to our contextual understanding of the murder. Then, we are going to talk about the struggles that single working mothers face in the midst of the changing gender dynamics. Finally, we hope to get a better grasp on Ada and whether or not she actually is representative of and can be considered a “New Woman.”


Low-Income, Working Women

This week, I am going to try and further dig into the topic of low-income working women in this time period by using a study done by Carroll Wright.

The study completed by Carroll Wright “The Working Girls of Boston” looked into the working woman in 1883. Carroll’s study found that the average age for a working woman was 16. Most households of widowed mothers had the children working if they were old enough to, in order to bring in more money for the household.  Carroll also found that the average woman worked from 8am-6pm, about the same hours as their male counterparts. One of the most popular jobs was housekeeping, which is what we believed Ada did when she was married. Housekeepers made an average of $5 a week, making the average yearly income about $260.  Women who were part of the study felt that “The work they were doing was worth more than they were receiving for it and they should have better wages.” (Wright, pg. 93)

Like I stated last week, it is nearly impossible for a woman to live and support herself and her child/children strictly on her income. It was reported from Carroll Wright that “Other women, left with children by the death of husbands or otherwise, report that if it were not for their parents, they could not support their children on the wages they earn.” (Wright, pg 113) We know that Ada became a widow two years before her death, so this could be why she was with Harrison. She had a daughter, and even if she was working, she was not able to fully support herself and Lena.

A woman in this time period was at a distinct disadvantage if she was a single mother. Ada was basically forced into working, she did not have the choice to become part of the workforce.  If women were widowed, they oftentimes tried to live with a member of their family like a Brother, Sister, Aunt, Mother etc. that could be another source of income. Like we have stated multiple times, women made significantly less money than their male counterparts, even if they were at the same job working the same hours. We are unsure of Ada’s relationship with her family, thus we don’t know if she tried to reach out to them for help with raising her daughter and potentially for another source of income after her husband had passed away.



Ada Brown: Who is she?  

As we all know, Frances Adelaide Kinney, also known as Ada Brown was a widow and single mother. My goal this week is to break down who Ada Brown really is. I will explore different parts of her life, and attempt to decipher her character. Ada brown was born in 1852 with the name Frances Adelaide Kinney. Her middle name became her primary name assumably at birth. According to the 1870 Census, Ada signed her name at 17 as a resident under her father Patrick Keeney. It is important to note that there is a large discrepancy between the spellings of the last names. Her parents are immigrants of Ireland, also discovered from the 1870 Census, and the speech barriers between nations cause differences. Throughout my research, there has been almost four ways to spell the last name, even if the census specifically shows the proper spelling, but I digress. She at 17, lived at home with her parents and 7 siblings. The eldest sibling being, 18 and youngest 6. Her father is 50 years old at this time and her mother is 43. The ages can explain more than just the amount of life they lived. First of all, we can tell the marriage habits. The woman is younger, but not anything out of the ordinary for today, but this is not the time period were looking at. Irish men and women could legally marry at the 12 and 14. The females could be wed at 12 and the males at 14, but the average age was about 20 (Maggie Land Blanck). It was also very common for women to become pregnant soon after the marriage and “keep house”. (This means to be a stay at home mom.) With this information and understanding of the customs, Ada’s mother began having children at the age of 25, nothing out of the ordinary for the time period.

In her early life, Ada attempted to be a painter, but found no substantial luck in her journeys. This was not uncommon for many women. According to the novel, Cheap Amusements, “…daughters of immigrants increasingly refused to don the maid’s uniform” (Peiss, 39). There was an  urge to be something different, which also came with the age of the “New Woman”. Unfortunately, she had given up this dream around the same time she met William Brown and followed in her mother’s footsteps. Either there was no work in painting or being a wife at home became more important.

Ada then met William S. Brown and had her daughter Lena at 27. At this point, she was living in Hartford with William, a Massachusetts native. Lena was born in 1879, and Ada did not get married until 1881. With this information, we can make the claim that Lena was born out of wedlock, which as I talked about two weeks ago is not a good thing for multiple reasons. The first being that marriage was conventional and evidence of premarital sex left room for the family to shame the woman. Second, asylums for children did not usually accept children out of wedlock, and if they did the records were not clear for them. At this point in Ada’s life she is “keeping house” as her mother did and William was a painter. Living with them, was Ada’s nephew Charles Thompson. The interesting difference between the 1880 Census and the 1870 Census is that Ada’s birthplace changes to Massachusetts. There is a clear sense of change within Ada, wanting to maybe change her roots and not associate herself with the family that just shamed her for having Lyna (Lena). Her being shunned by the family is also evident when her relatives close by would not come and take care of Lyna after her mother’s death. On May 3, 1882 William passed away, Charles either left or had taken the home leaving Ada alone and homeless. Somewhere along the lines, she met George Gregory, a clerk at a tea business also residing in Hartford. She also met Martin Harrison, a car driver, living at 126 Market in Hartford. Here at Sheldon St, is where she met her demise with these two men.

Ada is clearly a woman who did not live by the deeply rooted societal roles. Sam will be diving more into this topic as a whole as well. Ada seemed to go through an identity crisis by changing her birthplace from Connecticut, to her husband’s home state of Massachusetts. With all of this information, I will attempt to decipher what had happened October 20, 1884. Ada, a second generation Irish woman,  had found herself a widow and no where to go. She then found  men who would help her, and sustain her living because as we know, women did not work too often in this time period. According to Kathy Peiss, “…domestic service remained the foremost occupation of single women” (39). Daughters of immigrants especially, found themselves in the home caring for the husband and children. When her husband died, she was forced to find her financial support somewhere else. Harrison, having fought with Ada for the $10, could be exactly that. Peiss goes further in saying that, “..young women looked to men for financial assistance…” (54). The assistance that was given was meant to be returned and in a time of crisis, violence erupted. It is not one instance that caused her death, there are aspects of her life that lead her there to that moment, unfortunately, it was a deadly one.


Ada Brown: New Woman?

Last week, I indicated that Ada Brown fit the mold of the “New Woman.” However, after further digging my conclusions have altered. Even though Ada was probably influenced and impacted by the “New Woman” movement, Ada Brown, herself, was likely not a “New Woman.” These women were actively searching for independence and self-sufficiency, they pursued higher education, and women’s rights. Although, Ada could have had these thoughts, there is no compelling evidence to point to the conclusion that she represented what the “New Woman” stood for.

According to Linda Gordon, author of Pitied but Not Entitled, writes that single motherhood is not a new phenomenon in the 1800’s, however, it is growing and it can often be an urbanized issue, because cities tend to produce more single mothers (Gordon 6). Welfare is a negatively stigmatized program that refers to aiding the poor. Gordon connects the stigma of welfare with single motherhood, stating that “hostility to the poor and hostility to deviant family forms reinforce each other,” (Gordon 6). Poverty is often referred to as feminized because mothers who raise children alone are overrepresented in the poor.

Turn of the century issues arose with single motherhood due to the changing gender dynamics at the time, and the altering of traditionally patriarchal gender roles. According to Gordon, in some ways patriarchal communities controlled men, as well as women. Men were deterred from leaving their families because it was their manly duty to provide for their wife and children.

As families moved into growing cities and away from rural life, the Industrial Revolution and urbanization led men to mostly work wage-based jobs. Therefore, if a wife lost her husband, she lost his income and was left alone, without a way to support either herself or her children. Widowed women like Ada Brown, were left with few choices. They either had to find another man to marry or find a job to support themselves. Traditionally women did not work and if they did, they made significantly less money than their male counterparts, in low-income jobs.

Gordon also writes about welfare reformers who developed programs with the intention of deterring single motherhood by “providing incentives for proper and stable families,” (Gordon 7). Understanding that this was the social dynamic that Ada faced, it makes sense that she might have felt pressure to remarry or to be in a relationship with a male for more stability and support.

It appears more likely that Ada sought employment as a means to survive, rather than with the “New Women” goals in mind. There is no evidence to suggest that she pursed higher education, fought for women’s rights or was employed in an uncharacteristically female occupation. (For example, she was not a lawyer or doctor or in any sort of, typically male, professional occupation.)

However, when it comes to sex and traditional female morality, Ada might fit more so in line with the changing gender dynamics. Traditional gender roles state that a man and a woman marry and then have sex, within the marriage. In this, sex is an act that happens within the confines of a marriage. The press, when discussing Ada and her murder case, conclude that she is an immoral woman (Dossier). This is likely because she is an impoverished single mother, living with a man who she is not married to, and may be in an ongoing relationship with another man as well.

A huge factor that leads me to the conclusion that Ada is not truly a “New Woman” is the impact of class on women during the 1880’s. Stansell writes that upper and middle class women viewed themselves as “moral guardians” of their families, themselves, and their nations. However, laboring women differed in the sense that their existence, as poor, working class, single mothers went against the expectations of a woman’s role in society.

Basically, as I see it, there is more than one reason why a woman, at this time, would seek employment. Both her class and background greatly impacted these reasons. More upper and middle class women sought higher education and employment for the sake of independence and self-sufficiency. These women were more in line with my understanding of “New Women,” waking up to the patriarchal society and challenging it, fighting for their rights as women. However, women like Ada, widowed single mothers, who worked for their own survival and to support their children, were very different women. I do not think that Ada had the privilege of choice when it came to becoming a working women. Ada appears to have become one by circumstance, rather than ideology.




Blanck, Maggie. “Customs in Ireland, Birth, Marriage and Death.” Customs in Ireland, Birth, Marriage and Death. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.


Gordon, Linda. Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare, 1890-1935. New York: Free, 1994. Print.


Peiss, Kathy Lee. Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-century New York. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1986. Print.


Stansell, Christine. City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860. New York: Knopf, 1986. Print.
Wright, Carroll D. The Working Girls Of Boston [From the Fifteenth Annual Report Of The Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor, for 1884]. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., State Printers. 1880