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‘Freed Soul’: the letters of Charlotte Bryant

For Women’s History Month 2021, we’re sharing a collection of letters from our archives. These letters from Charlotte Bryant offer a different view of her controversial case.

About the case

Charlotte’s arrest and trial for the murder of her husband Frederick created a public frenzy in the 1930s. She was arrested after her husband experienced several bouts of severe stomach pain, which were later found to be caused by arsenic poisoning. Charlotte was illiterate and her personal life was the subject of much scrutiny. As such, the all-male jury found it hard to believe that Charlotte could be innocent. She was found guilty and subsequently executed at Exeter prison on July 15th, 1936.

The 1930s was an era when women were not seen as equal to men and the justice system was unable to provide the level of support needed by those of little means like Charlotte.

The verdict

The case is controversial because there was little evidence to support Charlotte’s conviction. In fact, thousands of people protested her innocence on the day of her execution.

In recent years a Nottingham human rights lawyer and others have cast doubt on aspects of Charlotte’s prosecution and the case made against her at the time.

‘Freed Soul’

National Justice Museum writer in residence Dr Martin Glynn has research all seven letters Charlotte ‘wrote’ to her family while imprisoned awaiting trial. He has creatively imagined correspondence between himself and Charlotte to highlight her thoughts and feelings in the intolerable circumstances she faced.

Dr Glynn’s imagined letters sit alongside Charlotte’s original letters in the new e-book published by the Museum. View the letters and Dr. Glynn’s creative response here.

The final public letter Charlotte wrote to her family before her death sentence will also be on display in the Museum’s Victorian courtroom when the Museum reopens after lockdown.

About Dr Martin Glynn

Dr Martin Glynn is the National Justice Museum’s writer in residence. He has been researching the Museum’s extensive letters archive which include Charlotte Bryant’s letters.

Dr Glynn is a criminologist, a Winston Churchill Fellow, and has over 35 years’ experience of working in criminal justice, public health, and educational settings. His current book ‘Speaking Data and Telling Stories: Data Verbalization for Researchers’ is published by Routledge (2019). His new book Reimagining Black Art and Criminology: A New Criminological Imagination, will be published by Bristol University Press in May, 2021.

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