Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Rachel I. Buff

Committee Members

Carolyn J. Eichner, Joseph A. Rodríguez


Gender, Homicide, Infanticide, Milwaukee, Murder, Newspaper


This study examines the ways in which Milwaukee's newspapers used gender norms to make sense of acts of murder during the nineteenth century. First, women victims of men's violence are examined, particularly through the lenses of ethnicity, class and race. Women victims who did not fit into middle class gender norms were less likely to be portrayed as "beautiful female murder victims." Then, women perpetrators of violence (not exclusively against men) are discussed, including a specific examination of women's use of an insanity defense. Newspaper tropes used to describe women's motivations for filicide are also examined, and found to vary based on the class of the women involved as well as their abilities to fulfill middle class gender norms. Last, the connection between anti-abortion rhetoric and newspaper coverage of Milwaukee infanticides is discussed. This section argues that newspaper rhetoric explicitly denouncing infanticide as equivalent to the murder of adults did not emerge in Milwaukee's newspapers until the mid-1870s, simultaneous to the growth of popular support for the anti-abortion movement.