|Case 236. A sexually inverted girl kills the girl she loves because she was rejected.In January, 1892, Alice M., a young girl belonging to one of the best families of Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A., killed in the public street of that town her girl friend, Freda W., also of the best society. She made several deep gashes in the neck of the girl with a razor.
The trial elicited the following facts: —
Alice inherited taint from her mother — an uncle and several cousins in the first degree were insane — the mother herself was psychopathic, had puerperal dementia after each confinement, the worst attack following the birth of the seventh child, i.e., Alice, now a prisoner — afterwards she declined mentally suffering from dementia persecutoria.
A brother of the accused suffered from mental derangement for some time after an alleged sunstroke.
Alice was nineteen years of age, of medium height, not pretty. The face was childlike and “almost too small for her size,” and asymmetrical, the right facial side was more developed than the left, the nose “of striking irregularity,” the eye piercing. She was left-handed.
With the beginning of puberty, severe and continued headaches were of frequent occurrence; once a month she suffered from epistaxis, often up to within the very latest period from attacks of tremor. On one occasion she lost consciousness during one of these attacks.
Alice was a nervous, irritable child, and very slow in physical development. She never enjoyed children’s or girls’ games. When she was four to five years old she took much pleasure in tormenting cats, suspending them by one leg.
She preferred her younger brother and his games to her sisters; she vied with him in spinning tops, playing baseball and football, or shooting at targets, and in many silly pranks. She loved to climb trees and roofs, and was very clever in this sport. Above all things she loved to amuse herself in the stable among the mules. When she was six to seven her father had bought a horse, and she took great delight in feeding and tending it, and rode about the paddock astraddle on its back like a boy, without a saddle. Later on she would also groom the horse and wash his hoofs. She would lead him along the street by the halter, gear him up in the buggy, and became quite an expert in harnessing him when required.
At school she was slow and faulty, incapable of continued occupation with the same subject, did not grasp things easily, and had no memory. For music and drawing she had not the slightest talent, and hated feminine occupations. She never cared for reading, and could bear neither books or newspapers. She was stubborn and capricious, and was considered by her teachers and friends as an abnormal being.
When a child she did not care for boys, and had no companions among them; later on she never cared for men, and had no lovers. She was quite indifferent towards the young men, even abrupt, and they looked upon her as being “cracked”.
But “as far as she can remember” she had an extraordinary love for Freda W., a girl of her own age, daughter of a friend of the family. Freda was a tender and sweet girl; the love was mutual, but more violent on the part of Alice. It increased from year to year until it became a passion. A year previous to the catastrophe Freda’s family moved away to another town. Alice was steeped in sorrow; a very tender love correspondence now ensued.
Twice Alice went to visit Freda’s family, during which time the two girls, as witnesses attested, showed “disgusting tenderness” for each other. They were seen to swing together in a hammock by the hour, hugging and kissing each other — “they hugged and kissed ad nauseum”. Alice was ashamed of doing this in public, but Freda upbraided her for this.
When Freda paid a visit in return, Alice made an attempt at killing her; she tried to pour laudanum down her throat whilst asleep. The attempt failed because Freda woke up in time.
Alice then took the poison herself before Freda, and was taken violently ill. The reason for the attempted murder and suicide was that Freda had shown some interest in two young men, and Alice declared she could not live without Freda’s love, and again “she wanted to kill herself in order to find release from her tortures and make Freda free”. After recovery they both resumed the amorous correspondence, even with more fervour than before.
Soon after this Alice proposed marriage to Freda. She sent her an engagement ring, and threatened death if she proved disloyal. They were to assume a false name and fly to St. Louis. Alice would wear men’s clothes and earn a living for both; she would also grow a moustache, if Freda were to insist upon it, as she felt confident that by shaving frequently she could succeed in this.
Just before the attempted elopement the plot was discovered and prevented; the “engagement ring” was returned together with other love tokens to Alice’s mother, and all intercourse between the two girls was stopped.
Alice was completely broken up. She lost her sleep, refused food, became listless and confused (at the shops had the purchased goods put down to the name of her beloved). The ring and other love tokens — among them a thimble of Freda’s filled with the latter’s blood — she concealed in a corner of the kitchen, where she spent hours in contemplating these objects, now bursting into peals of laughter, now into floods of tears.
She became emaciated, the face assumed an anxious expression, the eyes showed “a peculiar strange lustre”. When she learned of an intended visit by Freda to Memphis she firmly resolved to kill her if she could not possess her. She stole a razor from her father and carefully concealed it.
In the meantime she started a correspondence with Freda’s admirer, simulating friendship for him in order to find out his relations to Freda, and kept herself informed about them.
All attempts to see her or hear from her made by Alice during Freda’s sojourn in Memphis failed. She waylaid Freda in the street and once almost succeeded in carrying out her purpose had not an accident prevented her. On the very day, however, when Freda was leaving town and on her way to the steamboat Alice overtook her.
She felt mortally hurt because Freda, although walking alongside the buggy in which she herself was riding, never spoke a word to her, but only gave her a glance now and then. She jumped from the vehicle and cut Freda with the razor. When Freda’s sister tried to beat her off she became frantic and blindly cut deep gashes into the poor girls’ neck, one reaching almost from ear to ear. Whilst everybody was busy about Freda she drove off furiously through the streets. When reaching home she immediately told her mother what had happened. She could not comprehend the awfulness of the deed; she was cold and unmoved at the consequence pointed out to her. But when she heard of the death and the funeral of her beloved Fred and realised her loss she burst into tears and passionate wailings, kissed the picture of the dead girl and spoke as if she were not dead but still alive.
During the trial her callous behaviour struck every one; the deep sorrow of her own people did not effect her in the least; she showed absolute indifference to the ethical points of her deed.
At moments, however, when her passionate love for Freda and her jealousy woke up, she yielded to boundless grief and emotion. “Freda has broken her faith!” “I have killed her because I loved her so!” The experts called in the case found her mental development on a level with that of a girl of thirteen to fourteen years. She comprehended that no children could have sprung from her “union” with Freda — but that a “marriage” between them would have been an absurdity she would not admit. She absolutely denied that sexual intercourse between the two (even mutual masturbation) ever took place. But nothing definite about this point or about her vita sexualis per acta could be learned. A gynecologist examination of her person was not made.
The verdict was insanity (“Memphis Medical Monthly,” 1892).