Grace Marks (c. July 1828 – after c. 1873) was an Irish-Canadian maid who was convicted in 1843 of murder in the death of her Richmond Hill, Ontario employer Thomas Kinnear, and was suspected of murdering her housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. Her conviction was controversial, and sparked much debate about whether Marks was actually instrumental in the murder, or merely an unwitting accessory.
Marks was born and raised in Ulster, Ireland, had eight siblings, with another three who were stillborn. The Marks' father John Marks, a stonemason, was an abusive alcoholic. The family immigrated to Canada in 1840 when she was 12. Her mother died on the ship en route to Canada, and was buried at sea.
In her murder trial, Marks was tried alongside James McDermott, Kinnear's stable hand. They were tried for the murder of Kinnear, and the trial for Montgomery's murder was to follow but was seen as unnecessary, as both were sentenced to death. Marks was initially committed to an asylum (May 4, 1852 - Aug 18, 1853) but was later transferred to Kingston Penitentiary, while McDermott was hanged. The sentence was commuted to life in prison and, later, after almost thirty years of incarceration, Marks was pardoned and moved to northern New York. After that, all trace of her is lost.
In popular culture
- What is known of Marks on the historical record comes primarily from Susanna Moodie's book Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush.
- In 1996, author Margaret Atwood published a novel about Marks, Alias Grace.
- Sarah Gadon portrays Marks in the 2017 television adaptation of Alias Grace directed by Mary Harron.
- Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace: London: Bloomsbury: 1996: ISBN 0-7475-2787-3
- Gina Wisker: Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace: A Readers Guide; Continuum: 2002: ISBN 0-8264-5706-1
- "The Mysterious Murder Case That Inspired Margaret Atwood's 'Alias Grace'". Smithsonian.com. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
- Maane Khatchatourian (21 June 2016). "Netflix Nabs Sarah Polley Miniseries Based on Margaret Atwood True-Crime Novel". Variety. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
- The Trials of James McDermott and Grace Marks at Toronto, Upper Canada, November 3rd and 4th, 1843, for the murder of Thomas Kinnear, esquire, and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery., including the voluntary confession of Grace Marks and accounts of both trials
- Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush, Susanna Moodie (1853) and newspaper accounts of the day.
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