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LEWISTON - The Murder of Mary Bean and Other Stories is the topic of Museum L-A's author talk and book signing on Wednesday, July 20 at 7 p.m. The program is free of charge.

In this illustrated talk, Dr. Elizabeth De Wolfe will relay the tragic real-life story of a woman known as Mary Bean, a nineteenth-century factory girl who met her unfortunate end in Saco in 1849. When Mary Bean's body was discovered, pulled from an icy brook in April 1850, residents were aghast and they eagerly followed the investigation and subsequent trial of Dr. James Smith, a local physician charged with Bean's murder.

The intense newspaper coverage and public scrutiny of Bean's death revealed that the economic success of the textile factories had a terrible cost: the virtue - and perhaps the very lives - of the young women who worked there. DeWolfe will share some of the tragic tales that found their way into sensational fiction about Maine mill girls in the 19th century. Often dramatic, the stories warned parents of the unfortunate circumstances that could befall young people, especially young women, who went to work in the factories. Filled with despicable villains and tragic deaths, this fiction warned its young readers that the best way to stay safe was simply to stay home. The book, published in 2007 by Kent University Press, was honored with book awards from the New England Historical Association and the Northeast Popular Culture Association.

DeWolfe is Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of New England in Biddeford. She earned her Ph.D. in American and New England Studies from Boston University. DeWolfe is the author of three additional books. Her latest release, "Domestic Broils: Shakers, Antebellum Marriage, and the Narratives of Mary and Joseph Dyer" was published in July 2010 by the University of Massachusetts Press.