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Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis
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Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,079 ratings  ·  198 reviews
In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn't her crime that shocked the nation—it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancée Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.

Freda adjusted to this fate with an
Hardcover, 223 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Pulp
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PigeonSquid Well, considering she murdered her lover, it wasn't the healthiest relationship. I'm not sure how neat of a distinction one can make between love and…moreWell, considering she murdered her lover, it wasn't the healthiest relationship. I'm not sure how neat of a distinction one can make between love and obsession though. (less)

Community Reviews

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3.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,079 ratings  ·  198 reviews

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Alexis Coe
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
This is the best book I've ever written!
Robin (Saturndoo)
Jan 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
UGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!! When I saw this book I was so excited and very interested in it. Boy, what a BIG disappointment it was. The topic was very interesting but the author did a piss poor job in execution. She would have done a better job in writing it as a fiction piece. There were lots of mistakes/errors throughout the book which were very distracting. Being a Tennessean,the biggest one was the multiple references of Memphis being in East TN. When was Memphis moved from West TN to East TN? With th ...more
Taryn Pierson
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Alexis Coe once worked as a research curator at the New York Public Library, and she shows off her skills to great effect in her first published volume of nonfiction. Alice + Freda Forever details the murder of Freda Ward by her former lover and fiancee Alice Mitchell, but Coe includes much more than just the narrative. Woven throughout the text are letters between the two teenage girls, excerpts from news articles about the case, and best of all, lovely illustrations by Sally Klann. The book re ...more
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A fascinating study of the 1892 murder of Freda Ward by her lover Alice Mitchell, this book is most interesting in its account of public responses to a lesbian relationship. Alice and Freda aren’t quite a shining example of a lesbian couple in history, because of the murder that ended their relationship - but this book is an interesting platform for recognizing the lgbt+ people in our history. Certainly the majority of couples did not end their relationship with a murder, and thus were unrecogni ...more
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook
Four and a half stars.


I was really intrigued when Zest Books invited me to read this title. Alice + Freda Forever promised to hit all of the buttons of my literary interests: young love, LGBT themes, history, and murder. This book definitely delivered, and made for a book that I couldn't put down.

The great thing about this book is that it seems to be really, really well researched. I'll be the first one to admit to you that I had never even heard of this murder until I came across this book.
Susanna Sturgis
I'd give this book 3.5 stars if I could but went for 4 because Alexis Coe has done readers, especially feminist readers and anyone interested in women's studies, a service by recalling this case to our attention. Lizzie Borden (most probably) murdered her father and stepmother later the same year, 1892. Her case remains notorious to this day, but Alice Mitchell's murder of her ex-girlfriend, Freda Ward, has disappeared from sight, although it attracted nationwide press coverage at the time.

May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've had the privilege of working with Alexis a little bit, and I met her in person once, so I'm of course biased. That said, this book is pretty fantastic.

As an introduction to Alice and Freda's story, and as an overview of contemporary social mores, politics, racism, classism, and sexism, it's solid. Alexis presents fairly complicated subjects neatly and well, and paints a vivid picture of the murder and its aftermath.

Still, I finished the book with lots of questions: What happened to Lillie?
Apr 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bookclub
april 2015 bookclub

I really don't understand how a story so scandalous, so juicy, could possibly bore me to sleep five nights in a row. Really. True story Victorian lesbian murder mystery lacked any sort of excitement beyond hints that Alice and Freda ventured beyond intimate bosom friendships common among women during this era.
I also don't understand the new trend in foregoing editing in nonfiction narratives. No matter how many times the author makes this assertion, Memphis is not and will nev
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, ebooks
From the historical vaults of true-crime and LGBT history: "Alice and Freda Forever". This sensational murder trial took place near the turn of the 19th century, as the totally fascinated public attention grew in the case, people were perplexed how this shocking crime could have happened. Even more surprising were the conclusions of the experts, a reflection of societal understanding of same sex love/attraction (commonly known as "inversion"); that was believed to cause the insanity leading to t ...more
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with a pulse
Throughout history, people have been using love as an excuse for being unbalanced. This is a real-life example of one of those people.

My library's suggestion algorithm said I should read this book, even though I had never checked out a history, LGBT, or true crime book before. Pretty smart algorithm, because I loved this book! I recommended it to a bunch of people without even finishing it.

This is an amazing story, and the author did a fantastic job telling it. Using "artifacts" from that time p
Dec 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Dear author or publisher: Please, please fix the geographical errors in this book! Memphis is in West Tennessee NOT East Tennessee. Page 25: "In Memphis, 'chumming' was the regional term for intimate female relationships, but it was by no means particular to Eastern Tennessee."

Page 68: "By eight o'clock that evening, George returned with two of the most prominent, expensive attorneys in Eastern Tennessee."

Page 79: "Still, in their efforts to create an airtight case, Gantt and Wright scoured East
Kelly Hager
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is absolutely heartbreaking. It's based on a true story, but one that I had never heard.

In the late 1800s, two women were in love. Or at least one of them was. And they were engaged to be married. Except it was the late 1800s and they were two women. So things didn't go well when their families found out and they stopped talking, as their families demanded. And then one of them ended up dead by the other one's hand.

There are about a billion different ways this all could have been preve
Sep 07, 2014 rated it liked it
ARC by NetGalley

In 1892 America was shocked with a crime comitted by a young girl. But the most shocking thing of all was her motivation; Alice planed to pass as a man to marry Freda. And when they were discovered, she killed her fiancé.

Like most of us, I didn't knew about this murder. For years it went unnoticed until the late 90's when same love was declared natural and not a disease.

And even if they had been allowed to marry, their relationship wouldn't have last. Freda loved flirting and adm
Lady ♥ Belleza
This book got three stars, for me, three stars is a decent rating, it means I liked it, I just don't know if I can recommend it.

There is virtually no investigation, the murder was witnessed and the perp arrested that same day. There is also almost no trial covered.

(view spoiler)
Rich Rennicks
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Both a tragedy about two young lovers kept apart in 1890s TN, and an important piece of social history. Very thoroughly researched and well written, this book brings a forgotten episode of American social history to life.
Gin Jenny (Reading the End)
Illustrated nonfiction! Always in favor!
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. I've been talking about it to everyone for a week.
Jamie Canaves
I kind of prefer true crime that takes a look at old crimes like this because they don’t feel sensationalized and they have an added historical element. In this case, it also has the added bonus of line drawing illustrations and the lovers’ letters (although the letters were not easy to read on a Paperwhite-style ereader). If the crime had taken place today, it would be viewed most likely as a jealous and obsessed woman who murdered her fiancee when she broke things off–or honestly, probably wou ...more
The premise: In 1892, a young woman stood trial, having murdered her female lover. Alice had planned to masquerade as a man to marry Freda—but, when Freda acquiesced to her family's intervention, Alice killed Freda instead.

The twist: The trial was not about the murder. It was a trial to determine whether Alice was competent to stand trial for murder—to determine whether, as the defense claimed, her preference for women made her insane. Nobody questioned that Alice had committed the murder.

The bo
Aug 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, kindle
3.5 stars.

A short read about a remarkable case at the end of the 19th century in Memphis. Alice & Freda were teenaged girls who had pledged - and planned - to marry & make a life together. Alice held this promise close; Freda was not as committed, & entertained offers of engagement from male suitors. This betrayal drove Alice to murder Freda in broad daylight, in plain sight of multiple witnesses, with no regard for the consequences. Alexis Coe's examination of this well-publicized t
In 1892, Alice Mitchell was a heartbroken young woman. The woman she loved, Freda Ward, had broken off their engagement and was making it perfectly clear that she didn't want anything to do with her. Today, those sentences don't sound too remarkable. But in Victorian-era, post-Reconstruction, southern United States, however, there are serious issues with them. So much so, that they overshadowed Alice's next move, which was murdering her ex-fiance in cold blood, in the middle of a crowded Memphis ...more
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. DNF at 25%.

As a fan of both true crime novels and cultural criticism, I fully expected to fall in love with Alice + Freda Forever. Unfortunately, I seem to be among the minority of readers who came away disappointed. I found myself skimming at 10%, and finally threw in the towel at 25%. (To be fair, this is nearly halfway through the main portion of the text; the appendix, footnotes, and assorted front and back matter comprise roughly 40% of the book.)

While the story is indeed an inte
A Reader's Heaven
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
(I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

This is a fascinating true story of a teenage murderess and the motives behind her actions.

In 1892, nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell plans on extravagant measures to marry her 17-year-old fiancee Freda Ward. However, when their relationship is discovered, they are forbidden from seeing each other ever again.
Freda seems to adjust to this better than Alice. She cuts Alice off completely (much to Alice's heartbre
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Alice + Freda delves into the true story of a teenage murderess--her motives, her thoughts, her justification. I normally stray from non-fiction. It's not my type of thing. I read recreationally and nonfiction just doesn't give me that satisfaction. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by this. I'd vaguely heard of the event in question, but never truly knew much of the detail behind it.

In 1892 things go awry for lovers, Alice and Freda. Society wasn't nearly as accepting as it is today.
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love history, and I love murders, scandals, and anything that has to do with the psyche of a person. This book was really thrilling how the Author/Historian played it out for you. Not only do you get the facts about the murder, but you see some intel inside the minds of all that were involved. Granted this was a short and sweet murder that was pretty straight forward; I still enjoyed it immensely.

Alexis Coe went through great details and did some phenomenal research to find more information a
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Alice + Freda Forever will leave you wondering how such a unique story has been (mostly) lost to history. It follows the crime and subsequent trial of Alice Mitchell, who killed her ex-fiancé Freda Ward...

In 1892.

The case shocked the nation not because of the murder itself, but for Alice's romantic love for a woman, and the letters that clearly revealed their engagement and plan. The community literally couldn't believe it, reasoning that there had to be a man involved somehow. Coe showcases th
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
The book part of this is only about 55% of the ebook, which is how I finished this so fast (surprise!). This is a good history of a specific time and event, but, as is probably to be expected, is a little light on the details. The fact is that a lot of the history surrounding this event has been erased, or maybe never existed in the first place, and while I appreciate that Coe kept her editorializing to a minimum, it still left me wanting a little more.

That said, I'd never heard of Alice Mitchel
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Bravo, Alexis! Solid research really helped flesh out Alice and Freda's story, and I feel like you really humanized them. It's a shame, though, that there aren't more first-hand accounts (and obviously this is nothing you could control) for example, in the form of diary entries or additional letters exchanged between them, to get a more realistic account of their relationship rather than the sensationalized reporting from newspapers during the time of their trial. I kept thinking about how Alice ...more
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis" is as much about the tragic murder of a young woman as it is about Tennessee society at the end of the 19th century.

While the case itself is fascinating, what I find most interesting is the case's significance to that time period and everything that was going on around the case. The implications of a lesbian relationship as well as the racial climate in Tennessee not long after the end of Reconstruction both figured heavily into the atmosphere. As aut
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Alexis Coe has contributed to the Atlantic, Slate, the Paris Review Daily, the Hairpin, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Millions, Modern Farmer, and many others. She is a columnist at the Awl and the Toast, and holds an MA in American history. Before moving to San Francisco, Alexis was a research curator at the New York Public Library.
“The nights were advantageous, too. After they kissed their families goodnight, it was expected that they would share a bed, their bodies close, their movements obscured under the covers.” 2 likes
“In the mind of the public, she seemed endowed with an almost supernatural power to commit heinous acts, no matter the time or place.” 2 likes
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