Add comment February 3rd, 2017 Headsman
On this date in 1903, the Finchley baby farmers hanged together at Holloway Prison.
Sach’s lying-in house in the north London suburb was a destination of choice for inconveniently pregnant women for a couple of years at the dawn of the 1900s, and there they could deliver discreetly and pay a surcharge for adoption services to place the child with a family.
Except, as the mothers must have understood, few if any of those children were destined to find a doting parent.
The baby farming business stood as cover for post-partum abortion in a society exacting penalties legal, medical, and social against single motherhood and terminated pregnancies alike. The solutions an unexpectedly pregnant maid might turn to were all desperate and unappealing, and in the absence of better provisions for orphans and mothers a significant pattern of infanticide was baked into Victorian* England.
Risky home-brew abortifacients like pennyroyal were another option.
The £25-30 donative solicited of mothers by the Goodwife Sach was not enough to maintain the little darlings surrendered to her care: only enough to ease the conscience to forgetfulness. After delivery under Sach’s eye, the infants would be spirited away by Annie Walters for “adoption.” In her hands, they’d be chloroformed or strangled.
Nobody knows how many souls who might have grown up to serve as cannon meat at the Somme were destroyed untimely by our subtle duo; in the end, they were only tripped up by Walters’s surprisingly careless decision to take one of her charges home — where a neighboring, and nosy, police officer noticed it before it mysteriously disappeared.
Their joint death was the most recent occasion Great Britain carried out a double hanging in which both of the executed were women. For a novelization of the case, pick up Nicola Upson’s Two For Sorrow (review).
* For gratification of the pedants: Queen Victoria died in 1901.
On this day..
- 2016: Brandon Astor Jones - 2016
- 1891: Michel Eyraud, bailiff-strangler - 2015
- 1814: Mariano Matamoros, Mexican revolutionary - 2014
- 1578: Blessed John Nelson, martyr - 2013
- 1537: "Silken Thomas" FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare - 2012
- 1945: Not Fabian von Schlabrendorff, saved by a bomb - 2011
- 1967: Ronald Ryan, the last hanged in Australia - 2010
- 1915: Veljko Cubrilovic, Danilo Ilic and Misko Jovanovic, Archduke Ferdinand's assassins - 2009
- 1998: Karla Faye Tucker, for an axe murder and a Republican presidency - 2008