Dorcas Doyan, aka prostitute Helen Jewett (murdered in New York City, 1836)

Helen Jewett (October 18, 1813 – April 10, 1836) , aka Helen Mar, aka Maria Stanley, was an upscale New York City prostitute whose murder, along with the subsequent trial and acquittal of her alleged killer, Richard P. Robinson, generated an unprecedented amount of media coverage.

Jewett was born Dorcas Doyen [1] in Temple, Maine into a struggling working class family. Her father was an alcoholic shoemaker; her mother died when Jewett was young. From the age of 12 or 13 Jewett was put out to work by her father upon his remarriage and was employed as a servant girl in the home of Chief Justice Nathan Weston of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. At the Weston’s estate Dorcas displayed a grace that belied her poor upbringing according to accounts of her from diaries and travel logs of people who met her and it is believed Dorcas acquired a sense of refinement and cultivated a taste for knowledge and literature (which would explain the subscriptions to literary journals, such as the Knickerbocker and the Albion and works of Lord Byron, Edward Bulwerlyton and Walter Scott found in her room upon her murder.) While in the judges employ rumors began when Dorcas was sixteen or seventeen that she was sexually active, the judge (who some suspected may have been one of her suitors) would be forced according to custom to confront her seducers and agreed with Dorcas to lie about her age so she could be released from employ.  It was agreed that she was 18 and she left the Weston home at the first opportunity. She moved out of the judges home, no longer a virgin and a young woman with a bad reputation, moving to Portland, Maine, where she obtained the only employ available to her that could bring the lifestyle she dreamed of having: she began work as a prostitute under an assumed name (a standard practice at the time).

“Ellen was one of the most splendidly dressed women that went to the third tier of the theater,” testified Billy Easy, one of Helen’s brothel clients whose real name was George Marston.

She subsequently moved to Boston and finally New York under a succession of fake names. (Wikipedia and other internet sources)

At the murder scene, letters were discovered in Helen’s trunk.  ”

April 12, 1836 New York Herald, “Ellen Jewett was well known to every pedestrian in Broadway. Last summer she was famous for parading Wall Street in an elegant green dress, and generally with a letter in her hand. She used to look at the brokers with great boldness of demeanor, had a peculiar walk, something in the style of an Englishwoman.”