Saturday, August 26, 2023

Sunday Synopsis-America's First Female Serial Killer


America's First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a MonsterAmerica's First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster by Mary Kay McBrayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always thought Aileen Wuornos was the first female serial killer, but I found out that Honora Kelley, who later was named Jane Toppan, was the first one, and she was brutal.

Honora Kellye was an Irish-American born in Boston in 1857. When Honora was only age 1, her mother died of tuberculosis. The dad attempted to take care of Honora and her older sister Delia, but there were mentions of abuse. When the two girls were 8 and 6, their father dropped them off at the orphanage at the Boston Female Asylum. She was prone to telling stories to keep the other girls entertained and to gain their friendship, but she was also a hard worker. When a girl turned ten, they place them in respectable families.

When Honora was placed, she was sent to the family to work. She wasn't part of this family. She should have been, but she was often mistreated. They even renamed her Jane Toppan so she wouldn't sound Irish as Irish immigrants were treated with discrimination during this time. Jane did well in school and had many friends, but as she grew up, she gained a lot of weight, had few friends, and was rejected by a man she wanted to be with.

All these years she continued telling untrue stories (read-lies), gossiping, and drinking heavily. However, she entered nursing school at age 33, first at Cambridge Hospital then at Massachusetts General Hospital. She was fired from both positions, yet when she hired her services out to wealthy families, she came highly recommended.

Most of the doctors loved her because she was friendly, outgoing, and did her job well. She was nicknamed Jolly Jane. Her classmates in nursing school began to resent her, though.

I won't tell the whole story here, but it is well written and worth a read. It reads like a regular novel rather than a true crime story. In all, Jane Toppan killed at least 31 people, probably more. She was caught when suspicions arose after an entire family was killed, and she was finally arrested in October of 1901.

She got a thrill from killing making her a complete monster, but her story is quite interesting and McBrayer is more than competent in her telling of this story.  She explores events from her childhood, her time as an indentured servant, her nursing education, her methods, and her motives, and she does so in a way that is easy to read and understand. (read-not boring)

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