100 Years Ago Today: Arbuckle’s lawyers state they will not defame Virginia Rappe, October 31, 1921

After spending a week in Chicago, lawyer Charles H. Brennan of San Francisco had secured depositions from three witnesses, among them Josephine Rafferty Roth, a midwife and nurse. All three claimed that Rappe had given birth to a premature baby in 1908 and again in 1910 and treated more than once for the “same trouble,” meaning the chronic cystitis that was evidenced in her autopsy.

Nevertheless, Brennan reassured reporters in Chicago, “The defense has no intention of defaming the character of Miss Rappe after she is dead. We are merely trying to establish the fact that Miss Rappe had been suffering from organic trouble for a long time. Arbuckle, we contend, was not responsible for the rupture which caused her death.” The introduction of a “fallen woman” trope, however, was undoubtedly intended. If Rappe was to blame, then Arbuckle was the unfortunate victim of a coincidence.

Fallen woman? Virginia Rappe in Redbook, August 1912

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