Above: Montgomery County Courthouse in Hillsboro, IL (1916); site of the famous Bond trial in December 1883.
Nameless Indignities is an intriguing account of a historical true crime with more twists and turns than a roller coaster ride. If you are fascinated by history relating to crime, law, medicine, psychology, hysteria, rape, journalism, or genealogy, then this Victorian mystery is for you. The story will hold you in its grip from beginning to end with multiple suspects, a lynch mob, perjury and bribery, a failed kidnapping attempt, broken family ties, cover-ups, financial devastation, and at least two suicides.
The brutal gang-rape of young schoolteacher Emma Bond in her country schoolhouse near Taylorville, Illinois in June 1882 triggered the start of an enduring mystery. Although she survived, her recovery was hindered by hysteria, amnesia, and some unusual physical complications. The story was covered by newspapers across the land, but some of the wounds inflicted upon the victim were so appalling that the press refused to print the ugliest details, referring to them only as “nameless indignities.” Eighteen months went by before three of the six suspects were brought to trial.
After the verdict, however, the public’s unwavering support for the victim began to fade amid persistent theories and rumors that she had lied and that no crime had been committed. At the time, educators, editors, politicians, lawyers, and doctors eagerly weighed in on the case and its ramifications. But with Victorian doctors unable to agree on anything of a physical or a psychological nature, Emma’s life went into a tailspin from which she never recovered. The crime also took a heavy toll on local residents, pitting families and neighbors against one another. The fact that the case was never fully resolved gave it a certain staying power, with its many unanswered questions persisting well into the twentieth century.
Author Susan Elmore was determined to get to the bottom of the case in which her great-great aunt was the victim. During her six years of digging through historical documents, she discovered some previously unknown but relevant facts – details which would have been unavailable to investigators at the time. These findings led her to formulate a new theory on what really happened, which she presents in the conclusion of Nameless Indignities. The book is published by Kent State University Press (May 2013): ISBN 9781606351598.