Author pushes for mercy for executed Sarnia woman


It is an uphill battle, but Bob McCarthy is hopeful the federal government will one day “correct a travesty of justice” which lead to the hanging of a Sarnia woman over 100 years ago.

McCarthy, the author of the book Case 666, The Elizabeth Workman Story recently spoke to about a dozen members of the Petrolia Library’s book club about the case.

Workman was convicted in 1873 of brutally murdering her husband – an act which normally lead to the death penalty. But the jury recommended mercy for Workman asking she serve life in prison instead saying she had been beaten constantly during the course of her marriage. The judge disagreed and she was sentenced to hang.

Members of the community got involved, signing petitions asking for mercy. Even the then local MP, Alexander MacKenzie, wrote to Prime Minister John A. MacDonald to stop the hanging. But McCarthy believes a political feud between MacKenzie and MacDonald hardened the prime minister’s resolve and he denied the request. She was hanged and the case rarely was spoken of.

But while doing research McCarthy came across it. He was stung by the injustice of it and wrote a fictional story based on the case. He’s sent the book to MPs and Senators across the country urging them to put it in their local libraries to raise awareness and asking them to work to commute the woman’s sentence posthumously.

So far, McCarthy says Sarnia-Lambton MP Pat Davidson has indicated her support and he has received acknowledgement of receipt of the books from four MPs, including the Prime Minister’s office.

So far, McCarthy has been “disappointed” with the response but is continuing on saying Workman was the only woman in Canadian history who hanged despite the jury and members of the community asking for mercy.

McCarthy asked the members of the book club to send a postcard explaining the case to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him what he will do about the case.


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