Why this book?
This book is a riveting account of the life of a beautiful, well-established, young prostitute in mid-19th century New York City, her murder by one of her patrons, and his sensational trial and its aftermath. As compelling to read as a modern mystery novel, it is also brilliant history that illuminates much about early 19th century small New England towns from which young men and women fled, drawn by the allure of big cities. We learn about the lives of young male clerks “on the loose” in urban America, about the clothes and jewelry and hairstyles of the young female prostitutes as well as their inner lives and longing for culture. We are reminded that the police and the judicial systems could be as brutally unjust then as now.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
In 1836, the murder of a young prostitute made headlines in New York City and around the country, inaugurating a sex-and-death sensationalism in news reporting that haunts us today. Patricia Cline Cohen goes behind these first lurid accounts to reconstruct the story of the mysterious victim, Helen Jewett.
From her beginnings as a servant girl in Maine, Helen Jewett refashioned herself, using four successive aliases, into a highly paid courtesan. She invented life stories for herself that helped her build a sympathetic clientele among New York City's elite, and she further captivated her customers through her seductive letters, which mixed…