Publication Details

Cole, C. "Review of "Murdering Stepmothers - The Execution of Martha Rendell" by Anna Haebich." Studies in Western Australian History .27 (2011): 217-219.

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Studies in West Australian History


Stepmothers have received a bad press over the centuries. They are the cruel replacement mothers of fairytales, women who may not have children themselves and whose relationship with their new offspring is hostile or neglectful. Stepmothers usurp another woman’s role, generally that of the idealised, biological mother who has died tragically and can never be replaced in her children’s hearts. This antithetical role plays out in folk narratives such as Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella, which offer murderous stepmothers and absent fathers who are blind or indifferent to their children’s peril.