'Those who have had trouble can sympathise with you': Press writing, reader responses and a murder trial in interwar Britain.
Journal of Social History, 43(2) pp. 339–462.
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This article considers reader responses to newspaper coverage of a British murder case in 1928. Accused of the arsenic murder of her husband, Beatrice Pace became a fixture on the front pages of the British press. More than two hundred letters sent to her after her acquittal have survived in papers kept by her solicitor. Although far from a perfect source for gauging public opinion, the letters provide a rare and valuable glimpse into the range of reactions that media stories inspired in the past. Although it is clear that press coverage crucially influenced public attitudes, reactions to Pace were also highly individual and affected by readers' personalities and previous experiences. On the other hand, there are obvious patterns in the responses, most notably related to gender. From their letters, it is apparent that many female readers identified with Pace, whether as women, as mothers or as fellow victims of domestic violence. Men's reactions were motivated by respect, desire (sometimes in the form of marriage proposals) or business opportunities. Other themes apparent in the letters were shared across gender lines: most notably religion (including an emphasis on divine vengeance), spiritualism and the desire to make contact with a famous figure.
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