In January 1889, Louisa Collins, a 41-year-old mother of ten children, became the first woman hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol and the last woman hanged in New South Wales. Both of Louisa's husbands had died suddenly and the Crown, convinced that Louisa poisoned them with arsenic, put her on trial an extraordinary four times in order to get a conviction, to the horror of many in the legal community. Louisa protested her innocence until the end.
Much of the evidence against Louisa was circumstantial. Some of the most important testimony was given by her only daughter, May, who was just 10-years-old when asked to take the stand. Louisa Collins was hanged at a time when women were in no sense equal under the law - except when it came to the gallows. They could not vote or stand for parliament - or sit on juries. Against this background, a small group of women rose up to try to save Louisa's life, arguing that a legal system comprised only of men - male judges, all-male jury, male prosecutor, governor and Premier - could not with any integrity hang a woman. The tenacity of these women would not save Louisa but it would ultimately carry women from their homes all the way to Parliament House.
Caroline Overington is the author of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction, including the top-selling THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY psychological crime novel. She has said: 'My hope is that LAST WOMAN HANGED will be read not only as a true crime story but as a letter of profound thanks to that generation of women who fought so hard for the rights we still enjoy today.'
Praise for LAST WOMAN HANGED
'The story she tells ... is a useful challenge to any tendency to simple moral indignation' - Beverley Kingston, Sydney Morning Herald
'This is a fascinating book, a terrific read, and an excellent reminder of who tells the stories, and whose stories are forgotten' - Frances Rand, South Coast Register
'... what's ... interesting is Caroline Overington's even-handed appraisal of Collins's alleged crime(s) that led her to become the last woman hanged in New South Wales in 1889' - Launceston Sunday Examiner