"Blood with the Taint of Cain": Immigrant Labouring Children, Manitoba Politics, and the Execution of Emily Hilda Blake

By Mitchell, Tom | Journal of Canadian Studies, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview

"Blood with the Taint of Cain": Immigrant Labouring Children, Manitoba Politics, and the Execution of Emily Hilda Blake


Mitchell, Tom, Journal of Canadian Studies


One of two women executed in Canada in the 50 years after Elizabeth Workman was put to death on 23 May 1873, Hilda Blake was the only woman ever executed in Manitoba. Given the record of Crown intervention from 1873 to 1920, the execution of Blake is difficult to account for as the federal cabinet had to reject a number of arguments for granting clemency or ordering a new trial. While an explanation for the cabinet decision must include reference to the undisputed role of Blake in the actual murder of Mary Lane, Blake's social origins as a working-class orphan, and Victorian notions of gender, class, and crime, the overriding concerns appear to have been Liberal political misfortunes in Manitoba and Clifford Sifton's determination to place political survival ahead of other considerations.

Hilda Blake, l'une des deux femmes exécutées au Canada durant les 50 années qui suivirent la mise à mort d'Elizabeth Workman le 23 mai 1873, fut la seule femme jamais exécutée au Manitoba. D'après le rapport sur les interventions de la Couronne entre 1873 et 1920, il est difficile de rendre compte de l'exécution de Blake. Le Cabinet Fédéral dut en effet rejeter un certain nombre d'arguments pour accorder sa clémence ou ordonner un nouveau procès. Bien que la décision du Cabinet doive inclure, dans son explication, certaines références quand au rôle indéniable de Blake dans le meurtre de Mary Lane ainsi que sur ses origines sociales d'orpheline issue de la classe ouvrière et les notions victoriennes de genre, classe et crime, le souci premier du cabinet semble avoir été les infortunes politiques du parti libéral au Manitoba et la détermination de Clifford Sifton de placer la survie politique au dessus de toute autre considération.

On the morning of 27 December 1899 Emily Hilda Blake, a 21-year-old domestic servant who had come to Canada from Norfolk, England, as a 10-year-old orphan in 1888, was taken from her cell in the Brandon jail and executed for the murder of Mary Lane, the wife of Brandon businessman Robert Lane.1 The expectant, 32-year-old mother of four young children, Mary Lane had died of gunshot wounds on 5 July 1899. Following a confused and inconclusive search for the assailant and the discovery of the murder weapon, Hilda Blake confessed to the crime.2 During her subsequent trial, Blake refused to accept legal counsel, to defend herself against the charge of murder, or to associate herself with a movement which developed to seek a stay in her execution from the Governor General in Council. However, two weeks before the date set for her execution, Blake alleged in a brief autobiography that her decision to murder Lane arose from Robert Lane's urging and his related promise to marry her. Such an assertion, if accepted by the Crown, would implicate Robert Lane in the death of his wife.3 On 22 December 1899, in the last of a series of meetings on the case the federal cabinet rejected petitions for Crown intervention in the case and Blake's assertions of Lane's complicity, and directed that the sentence of death be carried out.

One of two women executed in Canada in the 50 years after Elizabeth Workman was put to death on 23 May 1873, Hilda Blake was the only woman ever executed in Manitoba. From 1873 to 1899, the federal cabinet commuted the death sentences of six women and ordered a new trial in the case of a seventh. Following the executions of Hilda Blake and Cordelia Viau in 1899, the death sentences of 12 women were commuted in the years prior to the execution of Florence Lassandro in 1923.4 Given this record of Crown intervention, the executions of Viau and Blake are puzzling. While Viau's execution may be explained by her dominant role in the brutal death of her husband, Blake's execution is more difficult to account for as the federal cabinet had to reject a number of arguments for granting clemency or ordering a new trial. First, the Attorney General of Manitoba and petitioners in Brandon and Winnipeg had urged a delay of the execution, clemency, or a new trial. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Blood with the Taint of Cain": Immigrant Labouring Children, Manitoba Politics, and the Execution of Emily Hilda Blake
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.