For a few months starting in the summer of 1917, Bianca de Saulles was the most notorious woman in the world. A year before, the Chilean heiress had divorced her philandering, fortune-hunting, no-good husband John de Saulles. But that was exactly when the trouble started.
The judge in the divorce case gave both parties shared custody over their son. Unfortunately, it was a verdict that Bianca detested and John refused to honor. So, a few months after the divorce went through, she drove to her ex-husband’s home, confronted him outside on his porch, and demanded her son back. The details of the ensuing fight are all too clear.
They argued over the boy, and an enraged Bianca took out a gun and held it to her ex’s head. When he went to disarm her, she shot him five times, killing him. Then, while medics fruitlessly rushed John de Saulles to the hospital, Bianca calmly waited for police to arrest her. Eventually, they charged her with first-degree murder. It kicked off one of the most sensational trials of the new century…but it all came with a major twist.
Even though Bianca didn’t contest the altercation, she nonetheless had an ace up her sleeve. In court, her defense wasn’t that she didn’t do it, but that she was glad she did it. In so doing, Bianca became the poster child for all the used and discarded women of her time, while her violence was a triumph against the misogyny of the day. Most incredible of all, it worked. On December 1, 1917, the court unanimously acquitted her in a “popular” verdict.
That day, Bianca de Saulles walked out of the courtroom scot-free—but it was not happily ever after. Although she did petition for and receive full custody of her son in the wake of the scandal, the boy eventually grew estranged from her and severed contact. De Saulles didn’t fare well with this. On March 20, 1940, after bouts of ill health, she took her own life at the age of 45.
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