Husband Killers and the New Unwritten Law
Many people are familiar with the musical “”Chicago,”” which follows the stories of women imprisoned for murdering their (often abusive) husbands. In reality, however, a vast majority of women in 1920’s Chicago who killed their husbands were exonerated by all-male juries. This phenomenon has been described as the “”new unwritten law.”” Women in Chicago were protected from criminal convictions for husband-killing by an unofficial legal understanding that gave impunity to many who were accused of this particular crime. This summer, I will continue to investigate the origins of the new unwritten law and its implications for understanding modern law and legal positivism. My research will include searching for original news articles about women accused of killing their husbands, as well as exploring contemporary discussions of the new unwritten law and the challenges it posed (and continues to pose) for conventional legal thought.