A new podcast series hosted by historian and author Lucy Worsley will explore ten of the most shocking violent crimes of the Victorian era carried out by women and asks – why did they do it?
It will also consider what it tells us about the role of women in the 19th century?
Lady Killers With Lucy Worsley is a historical true-crime podcast in which Lucy and a team of female detectives investigate the ordinary lives – and extraordinary crimes – of Victorian women, from a contemporary feminist perspective.
Among the 10 stories, Lucy uncovers two of Britain’s most notorious serial killers: Amelia Dyer, who is thought to have killed hundreds of babies and children entrusted to her care by desperate mothers; and Mary Ann Cotton, who murdered three of her husbands and numerous children and step-children.
Over in the United States, Lucy looks at the trial of Lizzie Borden, which gripped the nation – especially Victorian women, who packed the courtroom to watch proceedings, in what one reporter described as a sea of calico and lace – referring to the female interest that bridges social divides. And together with Professor Kali Nicole Gross, she examines the case of Hannah Mary Tabbs, an African-American woman who killed her lover, and how race had an impact.
Each episode focuses on a true story and sees Lucy take an in-depth look at the crime, how it was received at the time, and how it compares with what happens today.
Throughout the series, she is joined by an all-female detective team of historians, lawyers, journalists and psychologists to dig deeper into the social issues and circumstances that helped to create these murderesses.
Lucy Worsley says: “Quite a few true-crime podcasts like to titillate and condemn – what I’ve set out to do is to understand these women who killed. The historical records of their crimes give us a keyhole through which to look into some fascinating Victorian lives, none of which were easy. I’ve also completely loved working with my fabulous all-female team of modern-day detectives.”
Rhian Roberts, Commissioning Editor, says: “These dark stories are brought to life by the way Lucy and the team investigate. When you hear the court testimonies and the letters these women wrote, it sends shivers down your spine and those Victorian black and white images spring to life. Lucy’s found a new way to ask the question, whodunnit?”
Lady Killers With Lucy Worsley will be available as a boxset only on BBC Sounds from Monday 25 April, and will broadcast every Wednesday at 11.30am from 27 April on BBC Radio 4.