DiscoverLady Killers with Lucy Worsley26. Mary Surratt - Assassinating a President
26. Mary Surratt - Assassinating a President

26. Mary Surratt - Assassinating a President

Update: 2024-02-142
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Lucy Worsley travels back in time to revisit the unthinkable crimes of 19th century murderesses from the UK, Australia and North America.

In this episode Lucy is joined by Evy Poumpouras, former special agent with the Secret Service, where she protected five US presidents as part of the Presidential Protective Division.

Lucy and Evy investigate the case of Mary Surratt, a 42 year-old widow, mother and pious Catholic who was arrested in April 1865 for conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. He had been shot by former actor John Wilkes Booth while watching a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. One of the most sensational trials in US history followed, with prosecutors pushing for death sentences for everyone involved in the murder.

Lucy and Evy want to find out why the authorities were so sure that Surratt was involved in the assassination. They want to know what her story tells us about the lives of women at the close of the American Civil War. And they ask what happens when women step outside the domestic sphere and dare to get involved in protest and politics?

To find out more about the background to the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination, Lucy asks Dr Nikki M Taylor, Professor of History at Howard University Washington DC, to go to Ford’s Theatre and to the Surratt House Museum, formerly Mary’s Surratt’s tavern in Maryland. Mary Surratt, she discovers, was a slave-holder and, like John Wilkes Booth, was horrified by Lincoln’s intention to end slavery and enfranchise African Americans.

Mary Surratt is an elusive and divisive woman. Lucy wants to know if she was a devoted mother attempting to make her way in the world - or a hard-hearted conspirator, a slave-holder and fanatical Confederate trying to reignite the civil war.

Produced in partnership with the Open University

Producer: Jane Greenwood
Readers: Bill Hope, Jonathan Keeble and Laurel Lefkow
Sound design: Chris Maclean
Series Producer: Julia Hayball

A StoryHunter production for BBC Radio 4

New episodes will be released on Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts. But if you’re in the UK, listen to the latest full series of Lady Killers first on BBC Sounds. BBC Sounds - Lady Killers with Lucy Worsley - Available Episodes: http://bbc.in/3M2pT0K

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26. Mary Surratt - Assassinating a President

26. Mary Surratt - Assassinating a President

BBC Radio 4