'She killed not from hate, but from love': motherhood, melodrama and mercy killing in the case of May Brownhill

Lizzie Seal
2017 Women's History Review  
This article examines press portrayals of and public reactions to a 'mercy killing ' in 1930s England. May Brownhill, sixty-two, killed her 'invalid' adult son by giving him an overdose of aspirin and poisoning him with coal gas. Through the conventions of melodrama, May was portrayed in the press as a respectable, devoted and self-sacrificial mother deserving of sympathy. The case also resonated with contemporary debates about euthanasia. It is an historical example of popular leniency,
more » ... ar leniency, whereby although guilty of a crime, an individual is not seen as deserving of punishment. The case contributes to our understanding of how popular leniency was shaped by gender, class and age, and by contemporary views on 'mercy killing'.
doi:10.1080/09612025.2017.1332545 fatcat:4c57hgjvtvfv3bah23hubaxhoe