Review: Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe

alice-freda-forever“In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation—it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancée Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.
Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letter—and her father’s razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiancée’s throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion. As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jail—including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells). After a jury of “the finest men in Memphis” declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later.
Alice + Freda Forever recounts this tragic, real-life love story with over 100 illustrated love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenes—painting a vivid picture of a sadly familiar world.” – Goodreads

In 1892 America, the country was scandalized by a murder in Memphis, Tennesee. Ironically, it wasn’t the murder itself that was so shocking to citizens as the motivation for it. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had brutally slashed the neck of seventeen-year-old Freda Ward after their plans for a life of love together had gone awry. Alice had planned to pass as a man so that she and Freda could be married, however, when Freda’s sister came upon their love letters and learned of their plans, the two young women were forbidden from ever speaking to each other again. Freda appeared to adjust to this fate with an ease that broke Alice’s heart, and as each desperate letter Alice sent went unanswered, she became more and more desperate and unhinged, until the fateful day – January 25, 1892 – of Freda’s murder.

Alice’s father declared her insane that very day, and his diagnosis was corroborated by both medical experts and Alice’s attorneys – her love for another woman of the same sex was a dangerous and incurable perversion. Alice spent months in jail as the courtroom was expanded to accommodate the national interest of private citizens and the frenzied media. A jury of “the finest men in Memphis” ultimately declared Alice insane and she was remanded to an asylum, where she remained for just a few years until her death under mysterious circumstances.

 Debut author and historian Alexis Coe stumbled upon this story years ago and after years of meticulous research was inspired to bring the narrative of this notorious case to life. Alice and Freda’s story is enhanced with Sally Klann’s illustrations of maps, letters, and sketches. While this is a non-fiction book, it read like a novel to me, and held my interest throughout.

Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis is at heart a tragic love story, but it is also a an eye-opening look at the moral evolution of the United States in terms of same-sex relationships – with same-sex marriage still outlawed in the majority of our fifty states, how far have we really come?

Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe: Read it today!

3 stars

Source: Personal Library

 

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