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The needy moment of a poor mother

AmericaHer husband died, carrying a pregnant belly until she was broke, Dorothy took the last coin to buy a chocolate for her child and cried goodbye.

Dorothy Sherwood appeared calm as she entered the Newburgh, New York police headquarters on the afternoon of August 20, 1935. In her arms, the mother gently cradles a small bundle, in which is a baby over a year old. “Here’s the boy,” she sobbed to the police officer as she laid the child’s body on the table and confessed.

The 27-year-old mother said she placed her 2-year-old son James in a pram and pushed it about 5km from her home in Newburgh to the Moodna Creek. She let the boy happily wade around until he was tired, leading to the deep water…

“I had nothing to feed him, and I couldn’t bear to see him cry out from hunger,” she cried, telling the startled officer.

Dorothy Sherwood and her son.  Photo: NY Daily News

Dorothy Sherwood and her son. Image: NY Daily News

But when the police investigated this mother, a more complicated picture emerged. Poverty, misfortune and despair are what she experienced.

Dorothy Caskey was born in 1908 in the slums of East St. Louis, Illinois, was the son of a foundry worker and an unemployed housewife. Her mother died when she was 9 years old, and her father, who was married six times, was not interested in the ailing child.

For the next eight years, Dorothy survived from house to orphanage. With a beautiful appearance and sweet voice, the girl was chosen to join the orphanage’s choir and perform in many cities to ask for money for charity. From this job, as an adult, she moved on to work as a dancer in Chicago bars, where she met Fred Sherwood, a stage electrician.

They married when Dorothy was 17 years old, but three years later they had their first daughter. But at the same time, the young couple was unemployed. They left the baby with their grandmother in upstate Callicoon and found manual work in New York and later in Newburgh.

But in 1932, their livelihood came to a dead end. Dorothy is pregnant again. Two years later, the husband died of tuberculosis. Waitress is the only job this pregnant mother can earn, largely thanks to the kindness of the owner.

In her tattered look and black mourning outfit, Dorothy’s blonde hair and charm still captivated many men. One of these was a regular named Jesse B. Earle. He said he was divorced, was a government agent in Newburgh hunting a bad guy.

Romance blossomed, and soon he asked her to run away for a wedding in California. Dorothy quit her job and excitedly prepared for a new life.

On August 19, 1935, the day they planned to head west, the man disappeared. Several other clients told her that most of what he said was a lie. It was just a handsome unemployed guy who still lived with his wife and had two sons.

Dorothy is mentally broken, penniless, jobless and unable to feed her young son who has been hungry for days. She took to the streets on August 20 to look for a job, but was rejected. The economic crisis of the 1930s in America made it impossible for the healthiest men to find manual work. No one needs Dorothy, a weak woman and carrying a baby.

On the same day, Dorothy’s landlady demanded rent, declaring bluntly after many concessions: “Pay or pack”. That’s when she thought

Dorothy Sherwood cries while being sworn in before the court in January 1936.  Photo: NY Daily News

Dorothy Sherwood cries while being sworn in before the court in January 1936. Photo: NY Daily News

During the open trial in January 1936, many judges and people all over New York cried when the accused Describe how you dressed me that morning and loaded it into a carriage to the Moodna Creek.

“On the way, I bought a chocolate bar with my last coin and gave it to him. It was a goodbye present,” cried Dorothy in front of the defendant’s podium, explaining her fear that her son would die. Hunger worried her to the point of losing her mind.

Despite Dorothy’s many tears, the jury still couldn’t save her from the sentence First degree murder. They argued for more than 4 hours and decided that the punishment was execution in the electric chair.

“We know Dorothy Sherwood has had a rough life, but we don’t think that’s an excuse to kill her child,” a grand jury spokesman noted.

When Dorothy entered Sing Sing prison, which is known as the “death house” for the coldest-blooded killers in America. A female death row inmate heard about Dorothy’s life story and greeted with a warm saying: “Forget the sadness”.

Dorothy’s fate has turned. Thousands of people have appealed to the court for leniency for the unfortunate woman. Dorothy was therefore given a new trial and left Sing Sing. This time, she was accused First degree manslaughter and was sentenced to between 6 and 15 years in prison at the Bedford Hills Correctional Institution.

The American Veterans Association also filed a petition a few days later urging the Governor to pardon her unconditionally.

Dorothy (centre) on her release from prison.  Photo: NY Daily News

Dorothy (centre) on her release from prison. Image: NY Daily News

She was finally freed by Christmas 1939. Dorothy used her time behind bars to learn typing and sewing, skills that would help her later.

An International Liberation Army Army major accompanied Dorothy Sherwood as she left prison and pledged to help rebuild her life. They kept their word, when a few months later recruited Dorothy as a clerical job at one of their establishments.

Hai Thu (According to NY Daily News, NYT)

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