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CANADIAN PRISONERS' WELFARE ASSOCIATION

IS A WOMAN TO HANG ?

Marie Anne Houde (Mme Gagnon) of Quebec, is under sentence to be hanged on October 1st next for the killing of her step child.

Members of the Canadian Prisoners' Welfare Association fully appreciate the enormity of the crime committed, and the necessity of protecting child life: in fact, several of the board members are actively identified with organizations engaged in child welfare. Nevertheless it is the opinion of the Assocaition that the law of Capital Punishment should be abolished, and especially that it is revolting to the humanitarian sentiment of this age to hang a woman or a minor.

In this case we urge that commutation of the sentence shall be recommended to the authorities on the following grounds:

(1) Since being convicted and sentenced, Marie Anne Houde has given birth to twins, which means (if they live) that two human beings will go through life as the children of a woman who perished on the scaffold.

(2) Any woman who has gone through the process of maternity under such circumstances has some special claim to leniency, whatever her crime.

(3) There was a conflict of opinion among the medical men as to the sanity of the woman. In our opinion the very extremity of the cruelty should give rise to serious doubt as to whether she was normal from the psychological standpoint in view of approaching maternity, even if she would pass muster as sane. Surely this is a case where the full benefit of the doubt should be given.

(4) In our opinion owing to local feeling the venue of trial should have been removed.

There is no thought on the part of those supporting this petition of allowing the woman to go unpunished, but we hold that the laws of justice can be fully satisfied on this earth.

Some of our women members dissent from the plea on account of sex; but the majority of our members are persuaded that the Canadian public will never be content to ignore that unwritten law which, despite the conceding of "women's rights", exempts women from exercising or being the subjects of physical violence: hence the hanging of a woman by men is an action which we call upon the Christian community and the humanitarian public to try to frustrate.

The Province of Quebec has already hanged a youth under age this year. Shall it also place on the record of 1920 the only hanging of a woman for the past decade ?

(Signed) GEORGE P. GRAHAM, President:
ex-Minister of Railways.
ROBERT BICKERDIKE, Hon. President:
JOHN KIDMAN, Hon. Corresponding Secretary.

P. 0. Box 542,
Montreal, P. Q.

August, 7th., 1920.

Source: ANC, , RG 13, Box 1507, File Houde Marie-Anne, vol. 1, part. 1, Canadian Prisoners' Welfare Association, "Is a Woman to Hang?," August 7, 1920, 1.

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