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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Perceptions of Daisy de Melker: representations of a sensational trial
Author:Grogan, Bridget
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies (ISSN 1465-3893)
Geographic term:South Africa
About person:Daisy Louisa C. De Melker (1886-1932)
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2016.1258822
Abstract:This article discusses the sensational trial of the serial poisoner Daisy de Melker in terms of the reaction of 1930s South Africa to the transgression of white, English-speaking communal ties and values. The discussion focuses on representations of the events by three writers - Harry Morris, Herman Charles Bosman and Sarah Gertrude Millin. Each attended the trial, directly observing the court proceedings, yet each presents a different perspective. Morris, de Melker's lawyer, provides details of his client's crimes and personality, while exhibiting a subtle ambivalence towards her; Bosman's and Millin's accounts are less direct and factual, harnessing de Melker for their contrasting identifications of social ills. For Bosman, alienated from the white social body by his own former murder trial and conviction, de Melker's trial emphasised the punitive nature of South African society, providing a platform to discuss the barbarism of the death penalty. For Millin, however, de Melker embodied the abjection relating to the criminal disgrace of a white English-speaking woman. Indeed, de Melker's trial resulted in conflicting responses that emphasised the ambivalence, fragility and internal contradictions within white South Africa at the time. These responses reveal race and gender as essential components of sensational trials within the colonial South African body politic. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]