Book Review: The Trials of Maria Barbella: The True Story of a 19th Century Crime of Passion (Idanna Pucci): AH
THE TRIALS OF MARIA BARBELLA: THE TRUE STORY OF A 19TH CENTURY CRIME OF PASSION
by Idanna Pucci (Four Walls Eight Windows, 324 pages, $22.00). The dramatic account of Maria Barbella, an Italian immigrant who in 1895 became the first woman sentenced to die in the newly invented electric chair, is recounted by Pucci, whose great-grandmother, Cora Slocomb, journeyed to New York’s Sing Sing Prison in an effort to save Barbella’s life after becoming convinced that her actions constituted self defense. Pucci recounts the details of Barbella’s mismanaged trial in New York City, where her poor grasp of English prevented her from defending herself against the prosecution’s accusations; her subsequent conviction and death sentence; the activities of advocates, including Slocomb, who worked diligently on her behalf; the evident nineteenth-century prejudices against Italian Americans in particular, and women in general; and her subsequent retrial and resulting acquittal.