2 April 1868 – Frances Kidder

A jury took a mere 12 minutes to convict the last woman to be hanged publicly in Britain.

Frances Kidder was sentenced to death for murdering a child, and public opinion was to be so divided that some 2,000 people turned up to view the macabre spectacle.

There was no room in William Kidder’s life for three females, at least, so thought Kidder when she married the man. You see, he came with two kids in tow from a previous relationship – Louisa and a younger child. The younger child did not live with them luckily. However, Louisa, to her misfortune, joined her dad and his new wife and child Emma in Hythe, Kent. And in doing so, Louisa mysteriously incurred the wrath of her 25-year-old step-mum.

Theirs was a volatile relationship and Kidder, fuelled by jealousy, would often treat the 11-year-old with such extreme cruelty that she was eventually fined. Nevertheless the spiral of abuse continued until it culminated in her drowning the child unceremoniously in just 300mm of ditch water.

Can’t kid a Kidder

Kidder tried to blag it that she didn’t know where Louisa was, but when her muddy clothes were unearthed, her husband became suspicious of his young wife. Given her previous history relating to the mistreatment of Louisa, he took no time in shopping her to the police. Of course, Louisa’s body was dredged up and Frances was taken in and held on remand for six months. Apparently, while she was in custody, William wasted no time in jumping straight into bed with Kidder’s kid sister, who was helping him to look after his other daughter Emma.

It was this kind of callous behaviour that swung the public’s opinion in Kidder’s favour, but that didn’t stop her heading for the noose.

Kidder’s trial took place in March 1868 – after a six-hour court case, the jury took just minutes to decide her fate. Indeed after she’d been found guilty it transpired that she confessed her guilt to the priest as she awaited her death.

Death came soon enough and was carried out by Calcraft at Maidstone Prison. As the trap opened, she is said to have dropped 18 inches and struggled for up to three minutes before succumbing to her strangulation. She was left to hang for an hour before being cut down and buried in the prison grounds. Kidder is known primarily as the last woman to be executed in public.

Also on this day

2 April 1907 – Edwin James Moore
2 April 1962 – Elmo Smith

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