Converse to Explore Susan Smith and the Mommy Myth: Infanticide and the Politics of Gender

A historian has taken a fresh look at the Susan Smith case and shared insights on Susan Smith and the Mommy Myth: Infanticide and the Politics of Gender at Converse College on Monday, March 11. Dr. Keira V. Williams, a professor in the departments of history and women and gender studies at Coastal Carolina University,  offered a free public lecture in Converse's Lever Auditorium.

book cover for Gendered Politics in the Modern South by Dr. Keira Williams

In 1994, Susan Smith of Union, SC, captured the world's attention when she reported her two young sons kidnapped by an African American male carjacker. She made even more headlines nine days later when she confessed to their murder by rolling her car, with the boys strapped safely in their car seats, into a local lake. Smith was national news, trumping even the O.J. Simpson case. For the better part of a year; legal experts, psychiatrists, politicians, and journalists speculated widely about what could drive a mother to commit this most heinous crime.

Dr. Williams places the Smith case within the historical context of the changing politics of gender at the end of the twentieth century. Williams uses the Susan Smith case to analyze the "new sexism" found in the conservative politics of the 1990s.

Keira Williams is the author of Gendered Politics in the Modern South: The Susan Smith Case and the Rise of a New Sexism published by Louisiana State University Press in 2012.