Friday, September 23, 2022

Would You Like to Help?

This is a chance to directly participate in a major research paper.  I am currently compiling a comprehensive analysis of mass murders in American history.  Part way through the project I have realized that there are three pieces of information that I neglected to gather from newspaper accounts that have only just started gathering, and that I need to add to my database.  I really need to gather data from the 1800+ newspaper articles that I have already read.  (I realized that I needed this in the 1940s, when the cumulative number of postpartum cases became so obvious.)  You may find this process horrifying or educational.  Maybe both.  You will also get your name in the acknowledgments section of the book.

The data you will be working from: a Microsoft Word document which has a synopsis of each crime; a Microsoft Access data base that includes a link to an article (usually a newspaper article that you can read online).

What this will involve:  The data that I have realized that I need that I did not gather when I started this project: age of the mass murderer; sex of the mass murderer; for women identified in my records as possibly suffering postpartum depression, the age of their murdered children. 

1. Age: If the article identifies more than one mass murderer, or there is no murderer identified, the age field will be blank.  For all single murderer incidents, Just add the age to the entry in the Word file and the field in the database.  Do not worry about where in the synopsis. Age: number.  I will go through and do the textual adjustments and add it to the database if I cannot figure out how to merge your additions into the existing database.

2. The sex of the mass murderer.  If there is more than one murderer (and this is more common than you might think), the sex will be M, F, B (both men and women), X (the article fails to identify the sex, usually because the murderer or murderers were unknown when the article was published).

3. In many cases, the Word document lists the cause of the crime as "postpartum?"  Many of these women murdering their children are almost certainly postpartum depression.  Some women, in the months after birth, suffer severe depression.  A pregnant woman is pumped full of hormones that make many feel really good; after birth the no longer pregnant body pulls back those mood-enhancing hormones with often disastrous results for her mental health.  This sometimes turns into the murder of all or many of their children and usually a suicide.  These have been so common in my research that I have decided that I need a postpartum depression category as a cause of the crime.  (If you know a recent mother who is spiraling down into depression or starting to act loopy, talk to her husband or other family about your concerns.  Please.)  Any woman whose record in the Word document listed as "postpartum depression?" with children, especially multiple children at least one under two years of age, will be categorized as "postpartum depression" (no question mark). I will need you to list the ages of the dead children from the newspaper article.  Again add it to the synopsis in the Word file: Children Ages: numbers.  You will be reading stuff like this:

Waterville, Me. (1954)

03/08/1954: The mother, 24, “drowned her three young children, in their home and then attempted suicide.”  The children were ages 6, 4, and 1.  Her intended suicide note explained, “God told me to do it.”

Category: family

Suicide: no

Cause: postpartum

Weapon: drown1]

The number of incidents in need of review is so large that each person who takes on this very sad project will get a particular number of incidents from some block of decades designed to keep each volunteer's part not too big.  Your research will only go into the 1940s when I started recording this data that I suddenly realized that I needed.   

I will be happy to Zoom and show you what the database and Word document look like so you can figure out if you want to help.

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