Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment cases 19th century’

A Brooklyn factory girl kills her lecherous boss

June 6, 2013

FannyhydeBorn poor in England, Fanny Hyde (right) came to New York at age 10.

In 1872, the pretty 15-year-old found work at a hairnet factory on First and South Eleventh Streets in Williamsburg.

That’s when her new boss, married factory owner George Watson, 45, “looked upon her with libidinous heart and lustful desire,” her lawyer told a packed courtroom during her murder trial, which riveted Brooklyn.

Four months later, “he locked her in his office and ‘seduced’ her,” wrote Ann Jones in Women Who Kill.

Fannyhydetrialreport“As long as she worked there, he wouldn’t leave her alone; but when she tried to leave, he threatened to blackball her.”

He soon got Fanny pregnant, then forced her to take medicine to induce an abortion.

The abuse continued until Fanny was 18, when she was engaged to be married. Watson swore on a bible that he would leave her alone. But he did not.

“So on January 26, 1872, when George Watson left his third-floor office, he found Fanny Hyde waiting on the landing with a gun,” wrote Jones.

Georgewatson“She shot him once in the head, killing him instantly, and a few hours later surrendered herself to the police.”

How did Fanny escape a lengthy jail sentence? The idea of an innocent, comely teenager being “ruined” by a creep like Watson was so disturbing to Victorian-era Brooklynites, 10 of the 12 men on the jury refused to find her guilty.

Her lawyers also argued that she had been made temporarily insane. They called it “transitoria mania” and said that it started when Watson raped her . . . and was intensified by her menstrual cycle.

After the trial, Fanny was released on bail. A new trial was planned, but she skipped out and was never heard from again.