Witch Hunt in Wise County: The Persecution of Edith Maxwell

Synopsis

The southwest Virginia murder trials of a young schoolteacher named Edith Maxwell made her a cause celebre of the 1930s. No newspaper reader or radio listener could avoid hearing of her case in 1935 or 1936, and few magazines neglected to run at least one story on the case. In the media attention that it received, the Maxwell case rivaled the Scopes "monkey trial" of the 1920s, and for some it seemed to involve many of the same sociological issues--the conflict between modernism and tradition, between urban and rural values, between the sexes, and between generations. Feminist organizations like the National Women's Party and other women's business and professional organizations rallied to Edith's defense because women were not allowed on criminal juries in Virginia in the 1930s.

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