Catalogue


The Enigma Woman : the death sentence of Nellie May Madison /
Kathleen A. Cairns.
imprint
Lincoln, Neb. : University of Nebraska Press, c2007.
description
xi, 295 p.
ISBN
0803211414 (hardcover : alk. paper), 9780803211414 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
More Details
series title
imprint
Lincoln, Neb. : University of Nebraska Press, c2007.
isbn
0803211414 (hardcover : alk. paper)
9780803211414 (hardcover : alk. paper)
contents note
A girl from Montana -- Midnight alibi -- Outlaw woman -- Enigma woman -- The ultimate penalty -- The people v. Nellie Madison -- The defense -- Lady Macbeth -- The verdict -- A condemned woman -- An abused woman -- The reprieve -- Life in prison -- A traditional woman.
catalogue key
6112502
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [269]-288) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2007-03-19:
Nellie Madison might have been the first woman executed in California: in 1934, though she claimed innocence, she was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting her husband, Eric Madison, and sentenced to hang. After hiring a new lawyer for her appeal, though, Madison confessed to the crime, describing a marriage filled with emotional and physical abuse and an attempt by Eric to blackmail her after she found him in bed with a much younger woman. Her claim of abuse was supported by similar testimony by one of Eric's ex-wives. Eventually, her sentence was commuted and she was paroled after nine years in prison. Cairns (Front-Page Women Journalists, 1920-1950) wants not to exonerate Madison but to explore the complexity of a woman who she says was reduced to a caricature by the media of the time. Madison did not fit the traditional role of homemaker and mother. Having eloped at the age of 13, she had married several times, was familiar with guns and refused to speak publicly about the crime. Nellie was pegged by the media as a femme fatale, a character out of a noir tale. The author has done considerable research in this well-written true crime chronicle, but what happened in Nellie's bedroom in 1934 still remains an enigma. 15 photos. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"A new book out this month finally tells us the entire tale of Nellie Madison for the first time, and it is so terrifically researched, so well put together, you might forget the story took place in 1934. . . . [I]t's a physically lovely, beautifully produced book. . . .The Enigma Womanis top-shelf stuff for votaries of high quality historic crime stories. Professor Cairns will keep you mesmerized in contemplation of a most curious murder case, one in which our recalcitrant heroine could not speak until she was within the shadows of the gallows, one in which the victim may well have had it coming in spades and by golly got it." Laura James,CLEWS, The Historic Crime Blog
"A new book out this month finally tells us the entire tale of Nellie Madison for the first time, and it is so terrifically researched, so well put together, you might forget the story took place in 1934. . . . It's a physically lovely, beautifully produced book. . . . The Enigma Woman is top-shelf stuff for votaries of high quality historic crime stories. Professor Cairns will keep you mesmerized in contemplation of a most curious murder case, one in which our recalcitrant heroine could not speak until she was within the shadows of the gallows, one in which the victim may well have had it coming in spades and by golly got it."Laura James, CLEWS, The Historic Crime Blog
"By charting Madison's experiences from the 1910s to the 1940s, Cairns offers critical insight on the deeds and misdeeds of one remarkable woman, who in many regards was a victim herself. By framing events the way she does, Cairns gives Madison's story the context it needs and deserves."Christina Eng,San Francisco Chronicle
"By charting Madison's experiences from the 1910s to the 1940s, Cairns offers critical insight on the deeds and misdeeds of one remarkable woman, who in many regards was a victim herself. By framing events the way she does, Cairns gives Madison's story the context it needs and deserves."Christina Eng, San Francisco Chronicle
"By charting Madison's experiences from the 1910s to the 1940s, Cairns offers critical insight on the deeds and misdeeds of one remarkable woman, who in many regards was a victim herself. By framing events the way she does, Cairns gives Madison's story the context it needs and deserves." San Francisco Chronicle
"Cairns tells her story with considerable sociological and psychological acuity. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this tale is how the cut-and-dried, seemingly heartless justice system of the 1930s ultimately produced a punishment that was just and enlightened and would generally satisfy today's more liberal attitudes toward spousal abuse and homicide."The Atlantic Monthly
"Cairns tells her story with considerable sociological and psychological acuity. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this tale is how the cut-and-dried, seemingly heartless justice system of the 1930s ultimately produced a punishment that was just and enlightened and would generally satisfy today's more liberal attitudes toward spousal abuse and homicide." The Atlantic Monthly
"Nellie was pegged by the media as a femme fatale, a character out of a noir tale. The author has done considerable research in this well-written true crime chronicle, but what happened in Nellie's bedroom in 1934 still remains an enigma."-"Publishers Weekly"
"Nellie was pegged by the media as a femme fatale, a character out of a noir tale. The author has done considerable research in this well-written true crime chronicle, but what happened in Nellie's bedroom in 1934 still remains an enigma." Publishers Weekly
"[ The Enigma Woman ] is a well-written account that will appeal to readers in history, women's studies, journalism, and law."Barbara G. Friedman, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
"[The Enigma Woman] is a well-written account that will appeal to readers in history, women's studies, journalism, and law."-Barbara G. Friedman, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
"This is a beautifully written and exhaustively researched account of a fascinating murder case. Part true-crime, part gender history, this page-turner examines the trial and commutation campaign of Nellie May Madison , whose case foreshadowed the use of the battered woman defense. Despite her ultimate decision to emphasize her husband's abuse, Madison was no victim. She was a complex woman who shaped her own destiny. Kathleen Cairns brings her case to life and illuminates profound changes in women's roles in twentieth-century U.S. history."-Kathryn S. Olmsted, author of Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley
"This is an outstanding biography of a woman who challenged societal norms. . . . In this splendidly crafted narrative of Nellie's life, Cairns explores the West as geography and a place of reinvention, the rise of mass popular culture and its impact upon the individual, Los Angeles as myth and reality, criminal prosecution as a force in social control, the media's ability to elevate or destroy individuals, and intimate abuse as a legal defense to murder. . . . This book is a major contribution to our knowledge of women in the American West."-Gordon Morris Bakken, Western Historical Quarterly
"This is an outstanding biography of a woman who challenged societal norms. . . . In this splendidly crafted narrative of Nellie's life, Cairns explores the West as geography and a place of reinvention, the rise of mass popular culture and its impact upon the individual, Los Angeles as myth and reality, criminal prosecution as a force in social control, the media's ability to elevate or destroy individuals, and intimate abuse as a legal defense to murder. . . . This book is a major contribution to our knowledge of women in the American West."Gordon Morris Bakken, Western Historical Quarterly
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, March 2007
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
This title tells the story of Nellie Wagner who was sentenced to death in California after being convicted of killing her husband. It re-creates the case from murder to trial to aftermath.
Main Description
"Crack shot." "Enigma woman." "Good with ponies and pistols." "A much-married woman." What if such an unconventional woman--and the press unanimously agreed that Nellie May Madison was indeed unconventional--were to get away with murder? Shortly after her husband's bullet-riddled body was found in the couple's Burbank apartment, police issued an all-points bulletin for the "beautiful, dark-haired widow." The ensuing drama unfolded with all the strange twists and turns of a noir crime novel. In this intriguing cultural history, Kathleen A. Cairns tells the true tale of the first woman sentenced to death in California, Nellie May Madison. Her story offers a glimpse into law and disorder in 1930s Los Angeles while bringing to life a remarkable character whose plight reflects on the status of woman, the workings of the media and the judiciary system, and the stratification of society in her time. An intriguing cultural history, Cairns's re-creation of the case from murder to trial to aftermath casts an eye forward to our own love-hate affair with celebrity crimes and our abiding ambivalence about domestic violence abuse as a defense for murder.
Main Description
"Crack shot." "Enigma woman." "Good with ponies and pistols." "A much-married woman." What if such an unconventional woman-and the press unanimously agreed that Nellie May Madison was indeed unconventional-were to get away with murder? Shortly after her husband's bullet-riddled body was found in the couple's Burbank apartment, police issued an all-points bulletin for the "beautiful, dark-haired widow." The ensuing drama unfolded with all the strange twists and turns of a noir crime novel. In this intriguing cultural history, Kathleen A. Cairns tells the true tale of the first woman sentenced to death in California, Nellie May Madison. Her story offers a glimpse into law and disorder in 1930s Los Angeles while bringing to life a remarkable character whose plight reflects on the status of woman, the workings of the media and the judiciary system, and the stratification of society in her time. An intriguing cultural history, Cairns's re-creation of the case from murder to trial to aftermath casts an eye forward to our own love-hate affair with celebrity crimes and our abiding ambivalence about domestic violence abuse as a defense for murder.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. viii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prologuep. 1
A Girl from Montanap. 11
Midnight Alibip. 31
Outlaw Womanp. 45
Enigma Womanp. 59
The Ultimate Penaltyp. 77
The People v. Nellie Madisonp. 95
The Defensep. 115
Lady Macbethp. 133
The Verdictp. 145
A Condemned Womanp. 159
An Abused Womanp. 179
The Reprievep. 199
Life in Prisonp. 219
A Traditional Womanp. 241
Notesp. 249
Bibliographic Essayp. 269
Indexp. 289
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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