Elaine Farrell and Leanne McCormickMar 16, 2023
Child abandonment, theft, kidnapping, prostitution, bigamy, and murder! Bad Bridget is a must-read examination of crime and Irish emigrant women in the U.S. and Canada, written by Elaine Farrell and Leanne McCormick, and out now with Sandycove.
Ireland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was not a very good place to be a woman. Among the wave of emigrants from Ireland to North America were many, many young women who travelled on their own, hoping for a better life. Some lived lives of quiet industry and piety. Others quickly found themselves in trouble - bad trouble, and on an astonishing scale.
Bad Bridget: Crime, Mayhem and the Lives of Irish Emigrant Women (Sandycove, 2023) is a book about these women and the various kinds of trouble they got into. Elaine Farrell and Leanne McCormick have unearthed a world in which Irish women actually outnumbered Irish men in prison, in which you could get locked up for 'stubbornness', and in which an Irish serial killer called Lizzie Halliday was described by the New York Times as 'the worst woman on earth'. They reveal the social forces that bred this mayhem and dysfunction, through a succession of stories that are brilliantly strange, sometimes very funny, and often deeply moving. From sex workers and thieves to kidnappers and killers, their Bridgets are young women who have gone from the frying pan of their impoverished and ridden homeland to the fire of vast North American cities. Bad Bridget is a masterpiece of social history and true crime, showing us a fascinating and previously unexplored world.
Whether you’re a fan of true crime or looking for painstakingly reconstructed and incredible (true) stories of emigrant women’s lives, look no further for your summer read. Join us on the podcast today as we chat about crime as agency, a rowdy bunch of drunken Toronto women, and serial killer Lizzie Halliday. Then tune into season 1 of the Bad Bridget podcast - and stay tuned for season 2, coming soon!
Averill Earls is the Executive Producer of Dig: A History Podcast (a narrative history podcast, rather than interview-based), and an Assistant Professor of History at St. Olaf College.