The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Ninetenth-Century New York
By Patricia Cline Cohen
Why this book?
When I decided to write a novel about a 19th-century prostitute, I of course wanted to read as much as possible about demi-mondaines in that era. Cohen’s narrative nonfiction book is engrossing, and while it focuses on one woman, it also gives a fascinating inside look at what life was like for prostitutes in 1830s New York City.
And, in a stranger than fiction connection to my novel, the murderer of Helen Jewett—Richard P. Robinson—who was sensationally acquitted, moved to Nacogdoches, Texas to start a new life. He married Atala Hotchkiss and died of an unknown fever at a young age. His widow remarried, to William Ochiltree, and they moved to Jefferson, Texas. The Ochiltrees and my main character, Diamond Bessie, are all buried in Jefferson’s Oakwood Cemetery.
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