Most people don’t realize that scores of women and girls in bygone years were incarcerated in the prison at Thomaston, much less that several dozen were murderers.

“Maine Mothers Who Murdered 1875 –1925: Doing Time in State Prison” reveals the untold stories of over 30 mothers who ended the lives of their children. Primary source excerpts from the often-sensational newspaper coverage of their desperate dilemmas and vivid trial accounts enhance their stories.

Why would anyone be interested long after these crimes? Not only were they sensational and disturbing events, but they also are an unknown part of our history revealing aspects of our early criminal justice system and our culture, as stated in a news release.

Dorey studied the mothers’ marital status, extra-marital relationships and economic struggles. The mothers ranged in age from 18 to 53 and came from 12 of Maine’s 16 counties. They fell equally into four categories: single, married, estranged and widowed. Their victims ranged from newborns to 13 years old. Their sentences to hard labor varied from one year to life in prison.

Maine author Annette Vance Dorey tells about their family life, as well as their all-male judges, juries and attorneys, whose biographical sketches counterbalance the women’s lives.

Her persistent research led to discoveries about the conditions and staff at the Maine State Prison and the pardon process. Rare or skimpy histories about the state prison rarely (or never) mentioned female inmates. Women doing time in prison received little attention, compared to the attention they received in court and in the press. Several chapters reveal much about the prison’s earlier years.

Dorey is a retired educator. In recent years she has been active on the board of directors of Androscoggin Historical Society and a genealogy hobbyist.

“Maine Mothers Who Murdered” has 320 pages, 90 illustrations and 23 data tables. Books are available for purchase and signing. For more information, visit or contact [email protected]

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