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Walk Towards the Gallows

The Tragedy of Hilda Blake, Hanged 1899

by Reinhold Kramer & Tom Mitchell

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list price: $26.95
also available: Paperback eBook eBook
category: History
published: 2001

ON 5 July 1899 Hilda Blake, a 21-year-old maidservant in Brandon, Manitoba, who had come to Canada from England ten years earlier as an orphan immigrant, shot and killed her mistress. Two days after Christmas she was hanged, one of the few women in Canadian history to die for her crime.Blake unintenionally left a remarkable documentary record, ranging from Poorhouse records, court pockets of custody and criminial cases in which she was the central figure, popular, journalistic and professional assessments of her character, and a poem, `My Downfall`, that she penned in Brandon Gaolwhile awaiting execution. To explain why Hilda bought a gun and why she fired it, Kramer and Mitchell employ both historical and literary techniques. The result is a richly texturred story of late Victorian social, cultural, and political life.This book--part mystery, part historical detective story--uncovers Hilda Blake's life, from her origins in Norfold, England, to her tragic death. It also examines the lives of other principles in the story: successful Brandon businessman Robert Lane and his wife Mary, the murdered woman; Lane'sbusiness partner, Alexander McIllvride; Police Chief James Kircaldy; A.P. Stewart and his wife, Letitia Singer Stewart, the family for whom the 12-year-old orphanded Hilda first worked as a domestic servant; Rev. C.C. McLaurin, the Baptist minister who knew Hilda and counselled the condemned womanin her final days; social purity activist Dr Amelia Yeomans, who petitioned for clemency; Governor-General Minto, who urged the Lauier government to stay the execution; even Clifford Sifton, the MP from Brandon, federal Minister of Immigration, and the most powerful western Liberal in the Lauriercabinet, for whom the case was a potential minefield.

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Contributor notes

Tom Mitchell, Archivist, both at Brandon University.

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About the Authors

Reinhold Kramer

Reinhold Kramer is a professor in the Department of English at Brandon University.

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Tom Mitchell

Tom Mitchell is a university archivist at Brandon University.

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