Northshire Online: Bruce Dorsey - Murder in a Mill Town

Join us from home for an author visit!
Event date: 
Tuesday, January 9, 2024 - 6:00pm
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Author and historian Bruce Dorsey will join us on zoom to discuss his riveting chronicle of the nation’s first “trial of the century.” In December 1832 a farmer found the body of a young, pregnant woman hanging near a haystack outside a New England mill town. When news spread, the case gave the public everything they found irresistible: sexually charged violence, adultery, and the hypocrisy of a church leader.

A master storyteller presents a riveting drama of America's first "crime of the century"--from murder investigation to a church sex scandal to celebrity trial--and its aftermath.

In December 1832 a farmer found the body of a young, pregnant woman hanging near a haystack outside a New England mill town. When news spread that Methodist preacher Ephraim Avery was accused of murdering Sarah Maria Cornell, a factory worker, the case gave the public everything they found irresistible: sexually charged violence, adultery, the hypocrisy of a church leader, secrecy and mystery, and suspicions of insanity. Murder in a Mill Town tells the story of how a local crime quickly turned into a national scandal that became America's first "trial of the century."

After her death--after she became the country's most notorious "factory girl"--Cornell's choices about work, survival, and personal freedom became enmeshed in stories that Americans told themselves about their new world of industry and women's labor and the power of religion in the early republic. Writers penned seduction tales, true-crime narratives, detective stories, political screeds, songs, poems, and melodramatic plays about the lurid scandal. As trial witnesses, ordinary people gave testimony that revealed rapidly changing times. As the controversy of Cornell's murder spread beyond the courtroom, the public eagerly devoured narratives of moral deviance, abortion, suicide, mobs, "fake news," and conspiracy politics. Long after the jury's verdict, the nation refused to let the scandal go.

A meticulously reconstructed historical whodunit, Murder in a Mill Town exposes the troublesome workings of criminal justice in the young democracy and the rise of a sensational popular culture.

Bruce Dorsey is a Professor of History at Swarthmore College. He is the author of the award-winning Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City. He lives in New York City and Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

Please Note: To attend, you'll need to reserve a free ticket for this event on Eventbrite in order to receive the zoom link & password. Please note that the "Ticket With Book" option is for shipping or pickup within the United States only. We encourage you to purchase a book from Northshire Bookstore to support our event program.

Murder in a Mill Town: Sex, Faith, and the Crime That Captivated a Nation By Bruce Dorsey Cover Image
$34.95
ISBN: 9780197633090
Availability: Click Title for IN STORE Location
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - August 29th, 2023

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