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The most common murder victim in 19th century Australia was a baby, and the most common perpetrator was a woman. Annie Cossins pieces together the fascinating story of the most infamous legal trial in Australia to reveal an underworld of struggling mothers, unwanted babies, and a society that preferred to turn a blind eye.
In October 1892, a one-month-old baby boy was found buried in the backyard of Sarah and John Makin, two wretchedly poor baby farmers in inner Sydney. In the weeks that followed, 12 more babies were found buried in the backyards of other houses in which the Makins had lived. This resulted in the most infamous trial in Australian legal history, and exposed a shocking underworld of desperate mothers, drugged and starving babies, and a black market in the sale and murder of children.
Annie Cossins pieces together a dramatic and tragic tale with larger than life characters: theatrical Sarah Makin, her smooth-talking husband John, her disloyal daughter, Clarice, diligent Constable James Joyce with curious domestic arrangements of his own, and a network of baby farmers stretching across the city. It's a glimpse into a society that preferred to turn a blind eye to the fate of its most vulnerable members, only a century ago.
'A very moving book...[It] brings to life the awful poverty and the immoral 'morality' of the times, that created conditions which broke that most sacred and powerful bond - that between mother and baby - and broke the hearts of impoverished young women.' - Gabrielle Lord
'A very readable and accessible history of a terrible time. The writer has a passionate grasp of her subject and her time.' - Kerry Greenwood
'Cossins is both relentless in her search, and engrossing in her writing' - Lucy Sussex
About the Author
Annie Cossins is an author, actor and criminologist. She is an Associate Professor in the Law School at the University of NSW and a leading legal expert on evidence law and sexual assault law reform. In 2009 she played the role of Sarah Makin in an episode of a TV series, Deadly Women.
An interesting and shocking look at 19th century Sydney and the terrible treatment of women, prisoners and illegitimate babies. Be sure to Google "baby farmers" for information on the practice overseas.Definitely worth reading.
Fenella from Bellingen
Excellent reading. Highly recommended!!
i will read this book again
Australasias past is one of the most interesting things that can be written about
'A very moving book... (It) brings to life the awful poverty and the immoral 'morality' of the times, that created conditions which broke that most sacred and powerful bond - that between mother and baby - and broke the hearts of impoverished young women.' - Gabrielle Lord. 'A very readable and accessible history of a terrible time. The writer has a passionate grasp of her subject and her time.' - Kerry Greenwood.
PART I: WHO WERE THE MAKINS?
1 The hanging
2 Sarah Makin: convict daughter
3 John Makin: son of the middle class with a past
4 The deadly secret in Sarah Makin's body
PART II: DIGGING UP THE BABY FARMERS' SECRETS
5 The baby trade
6 The Macdonaldtown discoveries
7 To catch a baby farmer
8 The first inquest: two babies called A and B
9 Constable James Joyce: Joycean fictions and the art of deceit
10 More digging and the strange behaviour of the Makins
11 The next five inquests: the Makins' lives stripped bare
12 The longest, saddest inquest: clothing and other complications
13 The mysterious Mr and Mrs Wilson give evidence
14 The obsessions of James Joyce: digging, redigging and more digging
15 Mothers, mothers everywhere: the George Street inquests begin
16 The day Miss Amber Murray visited the Makins
PART III: TRIALS, APPEALS AND VARIOUS PETITIONS
17 The trial of the century: a judge out of his depth
18 The first appeal: the Makins' struggle against the hand of fate
19 The law passes sentence
20 Last stop, London
21 Makin's last chance: an 'innocent' man under the thumb of a 'fiendish' woman
PART IV: SARAH MAKIN, REFORMED WOMAN
22 From convict daughter to convict
23 Was Sarah Makin really an evil, deadly woman?
24 The lives that were left
ISBN: 9781743314012 ISBN-10: 1743314019 Audience:
Number Of Pages: 304 Published: 27th May 2013 Publisher: Allen & Unwin Country of Publication: AU Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3
Weight (kg): 0.43
Edition Number: 1