The Trials of Maria Barbella by Idanna Pucci
The True Story of a 19th-Century Crime of Passion

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Synopsis

New York City, April 26, 1895, 9:30 AM. Domenico Cataldo sat studying his cards in a saloon on East 13th Street. He was looking forward to boarding a ship leaving for Italy that very afternoon. His lover, also a young Italian immigrant to New York - Maria Barbella - then entered the bar. There was a brief exchange. "Only a pig can marry you!" were his last words. Maria Barbella whipped out a straight razor and slashed his neck so swiftly Cataldo had no chance to scream. He staggered out the door, clutching his throat with both hands, knocking Maria over, spraying blood everywhere. Finally, as he reached Avenue A, he lurched off the curb and fell twitching into the gutter, where he died. Thus began the saga of Maria Barbella, who shortly became the first woman sentenced to die in the electric chair, at the time a brand-new invention. Hearing of her plight, Cora Slocomb, Countess di Brazza - an American by birth, and author Idanna Pucci's great-grandmother - returned to this country to help organize an appeal to save Maria that was, ultimately, successful. The Victorian public was galvanized by the spectacle of Maria's trials. But in fact, her story rings with issues that would fascinate a contemporary audience: sex; prejudice; and the right of a woman to reject the role of victim, to avenge herself against a persecutor.
 

About Idanna Pucci

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Published February 1, 1996 by Four Walls Eight Windows. 324 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Pucci (Bhima Swarga: The Balinese Divine Comedy, not reviewed) became interested in this story when she learned that her American-born grandmother, Cora Slocomb, Countess di BrazzÖ, was one of Maria Barbella's staunchest advocates, traveling from her Italian estate to New York City to directly as...

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Publishers Weekly

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In 1895, Maria Barbella, a 22-year-old Italian immigrant who worked in a New York City sweatshop, was convicted of killing her abusive lover, Domenico Cataldo, because he refused to marry her, and thereby she became the first woman sentenced to die in the newly invented electric chair.

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HistoryNet

The dramatic account of Maria Barbella, an Italian immigrant who in 1895 became the first woman sentenced to die in the newly invented electric chair, is recounted by Pucci, whose great-grandmother, Cora Slocomb, journeyed to New York's Sing Sing Prison in an effort to save Barbella's life after ...

Aug 11 2001 | Read Full Review of The Trials of Maria Barbella:...

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