Story: Crime and the media

Minnie Dean dolls (1st of 2)

 Minnie Dean dolls

Dolls in miniature hat boxes are reputed to have been sold as souvenirs outside the Invercargill courthouse during the 1895 trial of Minnie Dean for murdering children in her care. Dean was convicted and became the only woman to be hanged in New Zealand. She became part of Southland folklore as myths grew up around her, including that she killed babies by sticking hat pins through the holes in the hat box, that she threw their bodies out of trains into streams, that she threw them to her husband's pigs or buried them under a tree with dark blue flowers known as the Minnie Dean tree. The truth was no match for imagination and Dean, the Winton baby farmer, became a monster in Southland's psyche. Newspapers played a large part in demonising her before, during and after her trial.

Using this item

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Reference: Lynley Hood, Minnie Dean: her life and crimes. Auckland: Penguin Books, 1994

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How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Crime and the media - Popular culture and mythology', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 January 2022)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 4 Apr 2018