Of course I didn’t use the crochet hook🙈 but I had to put it in this picture!! I am very happy I finally started a pair of socks for myself out of my Friends yarn! @collier_and_black (on Insta) is one of my favorite hand dyers and I’m glad I grabbed a skein of this when I did. She always has such beautiful skeins❤️
Born in 1837 in Pyle Marsh, Bristol, England, Amelia Dyer grew up with death and sadness. By 1848 she had seen two of her sisters pass away and her mother slowly and painfully die of typhus. She grew up and eventually started training as a nurse. This is when she met a woman named Ellen Dane from whom she learned the art of baby farming. Baby farming was a terrible practise in the eighteen-hundreds Victorian era. The idea was much like an orphanage, only instead of government funded and controlled it was women who placed ads in newspapers saying they would take the baby for a fee. Sometimes the baby would be put up for adoption, sometimes the parents would return for them. Either way it was completely unlicensed, no rules, no regulations. Dyer decided to use baby farming, an already disgusting and abuse filled occupation, in an even more evil and nefarious manner, specifically the extermination of the babies. These children were born to illegitimate families, out of wedlock, or to people unfit to care for the child. These parents would pay Dyer from 10 to 80 pounds to take their kids. Dyer would end up killing the child, selling the clothes and moving on to her next victim.
She met and married a man and the two had a couple of children, a family she now used as a helpful cover for the untrusting expecting mothers. In 1879 she was arrested after a doctor noticed how many children had died under her care. She was arrested and although she should have been tried for the deaths she was only tried for neglect and received six months of hard labour. She said the experience destroyed her mentally and from then on she would experience mental breakdowns, conveniently any time the authorities were on her trail.
In 1890 she cared for an illegitimate baby. When the mother returned to take the child away she was given a baby she didn’t recognize. She stripped the child down and noticed that there was no birthmark where there once was on one of his hips. It didn’t take long for the authorities to suspect Dyer, so she had another breakdown and went into a mental institution. After a number of years and a number of doctors bringing her to the authorities attention she decided to no longer bring the bodies to doctors, she would just dispose of them. When the families returned or someone came sniffing around Dyer and her family would move to another town.
On March 30th 1896 a small package was pulled out of the Thames river at Reading in London. Inside the package was the body of a baby girl. The detectives were able to find a label from Temple Meads station, a railroad station, and on that label, under microscopic analysis, they found a name: Mrs. Thomas, and an address. This led the police to Dyer. Although they had no strong evidence directly connecting her to the body found they spoke with other police forces and witnesses and came to the conclusion that this was their killer. Her house placed under surveillance and a young woman was set up as a decoy to meet with Dyer and discuss adoption for her illegitimate child. On April 3rd Good Friday the police raided her home as she waited for her new client, the police decoy. They found no bodies but they did find other evidence that later on in the case would become very relevant, including white edging tape that she would use as a noose for the babies, telegrams regarding adoption arrangements, the tickets from pawn shops where she would sell the children’s clothing that she had murdered and receipts from the advertisements that she would place in newspapers offering her services as a ‘want to be mother’.
At the time the police calculated that in the past few months at least 20 children had been placed under her care and murdered, at that rate of murder it’s estimated that over the decades she had killed over 400 babies and children making her one of the most prolific murderers ever. On April 4th she was arrested and charged with murder along with her son in law and her daughter, both would eventually be released after no evidence was found suggesting they were in on the crime. That month authorities searched the Thames and six more bodies were discovered, each child had been strangled with the white tape police had found at her house.
Her trial began on May 22nd 1896 where she pleaded guilty to one murder. Her defense was insanity, however the prosecution was able to bring to light the fact that any time she had a mental breakdown coincided with a time that she was about to be exposed. It took the jury only four and a half minutes to find her guilty. In the three weeks before her execution she wrote a last and only true confession.
“Sir will you kindly grant me the favour of presenting this to the magistrates on Saturday the 18th instant I have made this statement out, for I may not have the opportunity then I must relieve my mind I do know and I feel my days are numbered on this earth but I do feel it is an awful thing drawing innocent people into trouble I do know I shal have to answer before my Maker in Heaven for the awful crimes I have committed but as God Almighty is my judge in Heaven a on Hearth neither my daughter Mary Ann Palmer nor her husband Alfred Ernest Palmer I do most solemnly declare neither of them had anything at all to do with it, they never knew I contemplated doing such a wicked thing until it was too late I am speaking the truth and nothing but the truth as I hope to be forgiven, I myself and I alone must stand before my Maker in Heaven to give an answer for it all witnes my hand Amelia Dyer.”
— April 16, 1896
She was hanged on Wednesday June 10th, 1896. Her last words were “I have nothing to say”. She became known as The Ogress of Reading and inspired a popular ballad:
The old baby farmer, the wretched Miss Dyer
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid.
In times long ago, we’d ‘a’ made a big fy-er
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade
After her trial adoption laws were made much stricter in England which gave local authorities the ability to police and keep an eye on baby farms in hopes of stamping out any kind of abuse. Unfortunately even though the rules restricting the baby farming continued two years after Dyer’s execution Railway workers found a three-week-old girl inside a parcel on the tracks, wet, cold, but alive. The baby Jane Hill had been given to a woman named Mrs. Stuart for 12 pounds. It has been claimed that Mrs Stewart was actually the daughter of Amelia Dyer, however it is not known for certain.
Pictured above: two pics of Dyer, some illustrations about her crime and trial, the newspaper ads she posted, and some newspaper articles about her trial and trade.
( 2/5 Protagonists )
▸ Mara Dyer [ The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer ]
“You’re the girl who called me an asshole the first time we spoke. The girl who tried to pay for lunch even after you learned I have more money than God. You’re the girl who risked her ass to save a dying dog, who makes my chest ache whether you’re wearing green silk or ripped jeans. You’re the girl that I– You’re my girl.”