Alice + Freda Forever. A Murder in Memphis - download pdf or read online

By Alexis Coe

In 1892, the USA was once passionate about a teenage murderess, however it wasn't her crime that stunned the nation—it was once her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had deliberate to cross as a guy that allows you to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancée Freda Ward, but if their love letters have been came across, they have been forbidden from ever conversing again.

Freda adjusted to this destiny with an ease that shocked a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each one unanswered letter—and her father's razor quickly went lacking. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiancée's throat. Her same-sex love used to be deemed insane by means of her father that very evening, and health workers agreed: This used to be a perilous and incurable perversion. because the court was once elevated to house nationwide curiosity, Alice spent months in jail—including the evening that 3 of her fellow prisoners have been lynched (an occasion which captured the eye of journalist and civil rights activist Ida...

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During the Victorian era, proper American women were not to speak of their desire for men, let alone show it, but demonstrative relationships with other women were considered unremarkable. In Memphis, “chumming” was the regional term for intimate female friendships, but it was by no means particular to Eastern Tennessee. 4 But for Alice, this was no rehearsal. In Europe, sexologists were just beginning to define same-sex love, but this nascent research had barely reached American soil; the word lesbian would not be in circulation for another forty years.

Whenever she could manage an outing in the increasingly harsh January weather, Alice drove her buggy by Hernando Street. A moment to talk, to be alone, would be ideal, but she would settle for very little at that point. Which is probably why she felt oddly encouraged when one of her letters was sent back to the Mitchell household. All it took was Freda’s handwriting, marking the envelope to be returned, for Alice to grow hopeful. Finally, after so many failed attempts, she spotted Freda alone on the street.

With my personal collection of Alice and Freda materials growing, and my experience in public engagement deepening, I began to picture different ways of sharing their story. I longed to tell it on the page—as a nonfiction narrative, not a study—accompanied by the kind of stirring visuals an exhibition case offered. I imagined a book that was both written and curated. I wanted readers to see my research, to explore the archival mix, connect with the material, and draw their own conclusions. Six years after I missed my subway stop, I found myself walking through Elmwood Cemetery, led by Vincent Astor, a local historian in Memphis, Tennessee.

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