A SHOT RINGS OUT!
"Yesterday morning at half past four o'clock, I was called to 14 Broughton Street to see a girl who I was told had shot herself through the right temple, about midway between the eye and ear, a wound which I should consider fatal " J.D. Helmcken, M.D.
The girl's name was Edna Farnsworth and on June 23, 1889, she put a pistol to her head and cocked the trigger. She was only nineteen years old when she committed suicide. The house at 14 Broughton Street to which Dr. Helmcken rushed after hearing the report of the shooting was an address that was familiar to the police as it was a brothel or a "bagnio" as it was described in a newspaper headline. It was operated by an American madam by the name of Della Wentworth. Wentworth, originally from San Francisco, was herself only 29 years old at the time and continued to run the house of ill-fame up until around 1892 when occupancy of the house apparently changed hands.
Edna's suicide caused quite a stir in Victoria and resulted in no less than three newspaper articles in The Daily Colonist as well as one account in The San Francisco Chronicle due to the fact that Edna was purportedly originally from that city. Apparently Edna, although only 19 years old, had created quite a name for herself back in San Francisco. As a result, there are two main portrayals of her-the hapless victim of circumstance and the already hardened prostitute. Victorians preferred the melodrama of the first version in which a young girl, her innocence corrupted by lecherous men and a venal madam, decides that she can no longer bear the burden of her shame and ends her own life. This version enabled the Victorians to use her as an example of the pitfalls which young women fell into if they were allowed to be lead astray. Both versions of the story made for titillating gossip at tea parties and on cricket pitches!!!
Regardless of whether or not she was a hapless victim or an already hardened prostitute, Victorians felt that Edna had probably done the right thing in offing herself in that as a fallen woman she could never be accepted back into respectable society. The Victorians had a definite "one strike and you're out" policy when it came to female sexuality and, in keeping with the baseball analogy, Edna was way past first base. They "were temporarily prepared to forgive and forget the sins of poor little Edna they cried for her and pitied her and were probably more than grateful that their own lives were far removed from hers." However, this forgiveness only applied because the she was no longer a physical threat to social order. The girl who in life most people would have crossed the street in order to avoid was in death treated almost like one of their own.
Click HERE to go to the basic
facts of the Belle Adams case.