|Pages/Publication Date:||282 / 2020|
In 1895, 22-year-old Italian seamstress Maria Barbella was accused of murdering her lover, Domenico Cataldo, after he seduced her and broke his promise to marry her. Following a sensational trial, the illiterate immigrant became the first woman sentenced to the newly invented electric chair at Sing Sing. Enter Cora Slocomb, an American-born Italian aristocrat and activist, who launched the first campaign against the death penalty to save Maria. Rallying the New York press, Cora reached out across the social divide, from the mansions of Fifth Avenue to the tenements of Little Italy. Here Idanna Pucci—Cora's great-granddaughter—recounts how Maria's "crime of honor" quickly became a cause célèbre, seizing the nation's attention.