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Arsenic in Assinippi: The Trial of Jennie May Eaton for the Murder of Her Husband, Rear Admiral Joseph Eaton


A century ago, the peaceful, picturesque village of Assinippi, Massachusetts, became the focus of national attention after retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Joseph Giles Eaton was found dead in his bedroom. An autopsy revealed the presence of a fatal dose of arsenic. Authorities launched an investigation, and less than three weeks after the admiral’s death they arrested his wife, Jennie May Eaton, for his murder. She later stood trial in Plymouth County Superior Court where an all-male jury decided her fate.

The prominence of the admiral in military and social circles, the scandalous nature of the charges, and the rare indictment of a woman for a capital crime generated extensive press coverage. It was the era of sensationalism when newspapers, all vying to increase their circulations, splashed dramatic headlines, photographs, and sketches across their front pages. The Eaton case captivated people across the country for eight months in 1913.


This book is a nonfictional account of the events leading up to Admiral Eaton’s death, the ensuing investigation and trial, and the tragic aftermath. Newspaper stories, court records, town histories, census returns, vital records, genealogical records, military records, archival manuscripts, and other documentary evidence are among the sources the author used to tell the story of this significant chapter in the nation’s history.


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