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The Murder of Helen Jewett

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One of the most famous prostitutes that became a victim of violence was Helen Jewett, who was killed in Rosina Townsend’s brothel. In those days, it was a common thing for the bands of men to break into the brothels, destroy the property and hit on women. Reports on the trial of Richard Robinson, or Frank Rivers, as he represented himself in the brothels, were on the front pages of the most famous newspapers.

Patricia Cline Cohen, the author of the book The Murder of Helen Jewett, has opened up not just the mystery of Helen Jewett’s death but the exiting history of New York in the 1830’s.

The book The Murder of Helen Jewett reveals the story of Dorcas Doyen, who was well-known as Helen Jewett. The woman was brought up by her father. Unfortunately, he died when the girl was very young, and she was adopted by a local judge, who gave her a perfect education. Later she moved to New York, where she became a prostitute and was killed by Richard Robinson, her client and pen pal. It should be mentioned that Helen Jewett was known due to the letters to her clients, which were extremely tempting, sexual, and replete with flirtation.

Ultimately, Richard Robinson was acquitted. Although Patricia Cline Cohen was convinced that he remained unpunished. After analyzing all the evidences, she was able to recreate the chain of events on the day of Helen Jewett’s death, which led to the understanding that Richard Robinson was guilty. At the hearing of the case, there were the best attorneys in favor of Frank Rivers, who tried his best to prove his innocence.  On the other side, there were two prostitutes, the owner of the brothel and the African-American working man. However, they were not treated equally at that time. In addition to this, the judge asked the jury not to pay attention to the evidences for the prosecution that were important in that case.

In her book, Cohen casts light upon the cultural biases and historical context, which influenced the evidences that were collected and used at that time.  In the case of Jewett’s murder, Patricia attributes the travesty of justice to inequitable correlation of forces between men and women, which was invisible to the majority of court members. None of the men, which were in the brothel that day and which were in connection with the prostitutes, did nothing to conduce the justice avoiding humiliation.

As a resourceful historian, Patricia Cline Cohen identifies the mysteries concerning the famous murder at the heart of the case and shows the available evidences in her book The Murder of Helen Jewett.  However, the real events that happened between Helen Jewett and Richard Robinson remain beyond the history.

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