chapter  Chapter 7
15 Pages

Lydia Sherman, “The Modern Lucretia Borgia”

WithLawrence B. Goodheart

Neglected in the historiography, “Lydia Sherman, ‘the Modern Lucretia Borgia,’” warrants the entirety of this chapter. The Sherman cause célèbre in 1872 is an outstanding example of the intersection of medicine, culture, and crime during the Gilded Age. She was the first multiple murderer and serial poisoner in Connecticut. Comporting to a female norm of personal homicide, she confessed to killing at least six family members—no strangers. Although not a practice exclusive to women, arsenic poisoning was notorious during the Victorian Era. That such a slayer was sentenced to life in prison under the 1846 statute emphatically confirmed the unofficial state exemption of females from the gallows.