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Uncertain Justice: Canadian Women and Capital Punishment, 1754-1953 [Paperback]

F. Murray Greenwood , Beverley Boissery

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2000 1550023446 978-1550023442 First Edition

In 1754 Eleanor Powers was hung for a murder committed during a botched robbery. She was the first woman condemned to die in Canada, but would not be the last.

In Uncertain Justice, Beverley Boissery and Murray Greenwood portray a cast of women characters almost as often wronged by the law as they have wronged society. Starting with the Powers trial and continuing to the not-too-distant past, the authors expose the patriarchal values that lie at the core of criminal law, and the class and gender biases that permeate its procedures and applications.

The writing style is similar to that of a popular mystery: "Harriet Henry lay dead. Horribly and indubitably. Her body sprawled against the bed, the head twisted at a grotesque angle. Foam engulfed the grinning mouth." Scholarly analysis combines with the narrative to make Uncertain Justice a fascinating and engaging read.

There is a wealth of information about the emerging and evolving legal system and profession, the state of forensic science, the roles of juries, and the political turmoil and growing resistance to a purely class-based aristocratic form of government.


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In 1754 Eleanor Powers was hung for a murder committed during a botched robbery. She was the first woman condemned to die in Canada, but would not be the last.

In Uncertain Justice, Beverley Boissery and Murray Greenwood portray a cast of women characters almost as often wronged by the law as they have wronged society. Starting with the Powers trial and continuing to the not-too-distant past, the authors expose the patriarchal values that lie at the core of criminal law, and the class and gender biases that permeate its procedures and applications.

The writing style is similar to that of a popular mystery: "Harriet Henry lay dead. Horribly and indubitably. Her body sprawled against the bed, the head twisted at a grotesque angle. Foam engulfed the grinning mouth." Scholarly analysis combines with the narrative to make Uncertain Justice a fascinating and engaging read.

There is a wealth of information about the emerging and evolving legal system and profession, the state of forensic science, the roles of juries, and the political turmoil and growing resistance to a purely class-based aristocratic form of government.



This book is an interesting read...it offers compact accounts and an easily digested gender analysis. In the words of one of the authors, Uncertain Justice is written for the non-specialist. (Donna Turko The Advocate)

The book is highly readable and descriptions are well done.

(Ronald F. MacIsaac The Verdict)

Uncertain Justice is another fine work of serious scholarship...which nonetheless will interest any reader with an historical bent. (Chris Raible Ontario History)

About the Author

Dr. F. Murray Greenwood, a Rhodes Scholar and Professor Emeritus (UBC), is the author of numerous scholarly articles and the acclaimed monograph Legacies of Fear. He is the co-editor of the Canadian State Trials Project and is married to Dr. Beverley Boissery, author of A Deep Sense of Wrong (Dundurn Press, 1995). They currently enjoy life at Crescent Beach, B.C.


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