Death in the Queen City: Clara Ford on Trial, 1895


182 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-897045-00-X
DDC 345.71'02523'09713541




Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the former editor of the journal, Ontario History. He is the author
of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality, Canadian History to
1967, and Marriage of Minds: Isabel and Osc


Death in the Queen City recounts the 1894 shooting of prominent Toronto
citizen Frank Westwood and the subsequent trial of seamstress Clara Ford
for that murder. The accused in this real-life murder mystery was far
more interesting than the person murdered. Frank Westwood was young,
wealthy, and white, whereas Clara Ford was poor, orphaned, and
African-Canadian. At a time when Toronto’s police force was dominated
by an informal Protestant Scot/Irish mafia, this situation militated
heavily against the young woman. The trial presented the classic
elements of a confrontation based on class, gender, and race.

Legal historian Patrick Brode does an excellent job of establishing the
Victorian setting, discussing the murder and the press reaction,
examining the legal proceedings, and explaining the unexpected outcome
of the judicial proceedings, but one wishes that he might have spent
more time exploring gender relations and Toronto’s African-Canadian
community. Still, his book is a good read, and will appeal to those
interested in race relations in Canada and how the judicial system
actually operates.


Brode, Patrick., “Death in the Queen City: Clara Ford on Trial, 1895,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 29, 2024,