The last public execution of a woman in Britain
Frances Kidder, 25, was married to conman William Kidder but she deeply resented Louisa, William’s daughter from a previous relationship. Frances constantly abused her and on more than one occasion threatened to la her. On 25 August 1867 Frances drowned Louisa in a ditch.
She must have struggled to hold the 11-year-old under, as the water was only just over 30 cm (12 in) deep. When Louisa’s body was found in a nearby stream Frances claimed that they had fallen into the ditch together when they were frightened by passing horses, an excuse rightly rejected by the jury after just 12 minutes on 12 March 1868.
Mailing, Kent, England
Sunday 25 August 1867
In the condemned cell Frances confessed the murder to the prison chaplain. She frequently became hysterical while awaiting her execution and, at noon on 2 April 1868 at Maidstone Prison, she had to be helped onto the gallows and held on the trapdoors by two warders. She prayed intently while the executioner William Calcraft strapped her wrists in front of her and put two leather straps around her body: one pinning her arms at elbow level and another around her legs to hold her long skirt down. He placed a white cotton hood over her head and adjusted the noose.
Then he released the trap and some 2,000 people watched Frances drop 90 cm (3 ft) and struggle hard for two or three.