15 January 1894 – Frances Knorr
Antipodean baby farmer Frances Knorr was hanged for infanticide in Melbourne, Australia.
Baby farming took place at a time when contraception was poor and illegitimacy was a taboo.
The farmers were meant to place unwanted or illegitimate babies with parents who did want children. But if babies were hard to home or unwanted, some baby farmers would murder them instead and pocket the money.
As a means of providing a living for her and her daughter, Knorr turned to baby farming as a means of income. But like many others, she would kill the odd baby here and there. And while living in Melbourne she buried a couple of bodies in her back yard, before she moved to Sydney. Of course when the next tenant moved in, a corpse was discovered and the police called. Naturally the other was found not long after, and, as the previous tenant, the focus for blame fell on Knorr.
She was found guilty of the murders and while awaiting her death, Knorr said that she hoped ‘that [her] fall will not only be a warning to others, but also act as a deterrent’. She also confessed her guilt: ‘I now desire to state that upon the charges known in evidence as Number 1 and 2 babies, I confess to be guilty’.
She was hanged for murder in Old Melbourne Gaol, dying instantly.