Author Tags: Alcohol, Women
Ed Sager and Mike Frye wrote the biography of Edith Julia Bronson, The Bootlegger's Lady (Hancock House, 1984, 1988) about the remarkable court case involving a pioneer woman who was acquitted in B.C. Supreme Court of murdering her husband after she shot him to protect herself and her children. Women of B.C. had petitioned for her acquittal because she had long endured her husband Fred Frye's brutality, philandering, brawling and bootlegging. They had lived in very rudimentary and unsanitary conditions at Almeda, B.C. on the CNR line, approximately 180 miles north of Kamloops. She bore her husband nine children, only one of whom died shortly after childbirth in 1920. Married in Rolla, North Dakota in 1990, the couple had driven a freight wagon 2,000 miles north from North Dakota on a six-year journey before settling in B.C. Fred Charles Hayes became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1912. While she was 42 years old and pregnant again in 1915, his fortunes improved under Prohibition, his drinking increased and he became more violent towards his wife and older children. Another son was born in 1918, and another in 1919. The latter died during the influenza epidemic. In 1922 Edith Frye sent one of her daughters to contact the police, they came and apprehended Fred Frye, but they let him go. He returned and beat them. Isolated and desperate, coping with too many children and an increasingly paranoid and insane criminal, she shot him with a rifle. The jury took 15 minutes to reach an acquittal. She returned to Albreda, cooked at a logging camp, fought a forest fire, cut fire lines with a team and plow, killed a wolf with a hatchet, helped her neighbours when she could and stayed at the homestead until her eldest son Charles drowned in 1950. She stayed with her daughter Julie in Valemount, north of Albreda, and died in Kamloops Hospital on May 15, 1956 at age 83. Sager and Frye suggest her death was caused by a malignant abdominal that resulted from lack of proper medical care during childbirth. She was buried near Albreda.
[Image: Edith Frye, from The Bootlegger's Lady]