Records of Victorian women murderers and thieves placed online thieves

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The face in the sepia photograph is taut and strained, the glare fixed and defiant – for who knows the trials Mary Morrison had already undergone in life before her conviction at Manchester assize courts on 16 July 1883? Nearly 130 years on, her portrait, attached to her prison record, is one of hundreds of Victorian female prisoners placed online for the first time by a genealogy website.

Morrison, 40 and a servant, was convicted of throwing acid in the face of her estranged husband after she had confronted him at his workplace in Ancoats in the city, demanding that he pay her her weekly allowance.

The tale is told in a single newspaper paragraph pasted next to her photograph: "He promised to give it to her in a day or two but she said that would not do for her and, taking from under her shawl a jug containing undiluted sulphuric acid, she threw [it] at her husband saying: 'Take that. I'll make you worse than you are'."

The website is publishing 4,400 parole records with 500 photographs of some of the prisoners sentenced in the mid-19th century. They sit demurely in their uniforms, with white pinafores, some wearing mob caps, hair parted in the middle, hands spread in front of their stomachs: murderers and thieves, some of the latter sentenced to savage prison terms for the most minor of crimes....

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