The reader is asked to solve a real "who done it" when it comes to answering the question of who killed ten-year-old Aurore Gagnon? The authors tell us, "Aurore Gagnon was a young girl who died on February 12, 1920, under suspicious circumstances." Her autopsy showed that she had been "beaten, whipped, and burned." At the time, Aurore's hometown of Ste. Philomène de Fortierville was a small village in Quebec, Canada where "everyone knew everyone else's business," but somehow, her murder went unnoticed. The user is asked to help solve the mystery by doing their own "historical research," and by reading "authentic documents from the time." Court records and newspapers of the day are available for analysis, comparison, and examination in order to determine who was responsible. The site is divided into eight sections: Home, Context, Suspicious Death, Trials, Aftermath, Archives, Echoes, and Interpretations. Each section has a number of sub-sections with important information deemed necessary to proceed further in the research. For example, "Home," tells in part, how to use the site and has a link for questions and support for teachers. "Context," has in part, biographies of the players and a timeline of events. "Suspicious Death," speaks of how the crime was brought to light and includes the coroner's inquest. "Trials," has information concerning the two trials of Aurore's step-mother and her father. "Aftermath," informs the user of the fate of Aurore's parents. "Archives," includes data on books, one film, letters, a play, various court and government documents, newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, and other important artifacts relevant to the story of Aurore. "Echoes," attempts to explain how and why the "Gagnon Affair," has lasted for so many years and is still fresh in the minds of Quebecers. Finally, we are told that "Interpretations," brings to life the words of the two authors of the site, along with a historian and a pediatrician who specializes in domestic violence. As we are told by the authors concerning the overall "look" of the site, "The darker colours of the site were inspired by the abuse inflicted upon Aurore and by her solitude."
Type of Material:
This material can be used in class for individual or group work, online for individual homework assignments, or, for individual or group discussions, or lectures.
HTML/text, Safari, I.E.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
For students, this is a good case regarding trials and the double standards that sometimes apply to women in the criminal justice system. Because the stepmother was pregnant, she was allowed to give birth to and nurse her children rather than be put to death right away. However, after the children were born, her sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Target Student Population:
Middle School, High School, College General Education.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Must have basic computer skills, have internet capability, must be able to navigate the web.
Excellent content! This material gives a clear explanation of the case, the trial and the outcome. It also discusses the effect this case had upon the community. This material could be used as a stand-alone assignment, no textbook would be needed in conjunction with this lesson. Certainly, this material could be used as part of a lecture and would make for a compelling lesson.
No less than 64 newspaper or magazine articles were published in the days, weeks, and months following the "strange" or "mysterious" death of little Aurore Gagnon. Documentation concerning the criminal investigation, trial, and sentencing of her parents are also provided for viewing. The Warrant for the Arrest of Aurores' father is available, as are 26 court depositions or recorded testimonies of witnesses, including neighbors and relatives of the victim. The most disturbing of these might be the sworn deposition of Marie-Jeanne Gagnon, the 12-year-old sister of Aurore who was in the house the day Aurore died and was witness to the numerous beatings and mistreatment of her sister prior to her death. There are also 45 Government Documents, 7 Court Documents, 5 Coroner's Inquests or Reports, and numerous drawings, paintings, and photographs depicting past and present Fortierville. Included are photos of the Gagnon house as it appeared in 1920 and again in 2004 where "we can view the window in the attic where Aurore slept." Also available are photos of key players from the trial, newspaper headlines of the day, and most poignant, Aurore's tombstone. The content of the trial transcripts and other documents appear to be valid and the information contained herein appear to be reliable. All of the material on the site certainly depicts reality as it was during the early twentieth century.
This case is gruesome. May be disturbing to some students.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The site definitely facilitates learning as the user will greatly improve their critical thinking and research skills. The concepts are clear, focused, very well organized. The material presented fully engages the learner not only with documentation of legal proceedings, but also with photographs of people involved in the process at the time, and places where the actual events took place. The learner is transported into the past where they can read about how people lived and interacted with each other in rural Quebec. As we are told by the authors, "Through the story of Aurore Gagnon, you are invited to discover many facets of Quebec society in the 1920's: how rural families were structured, what special treatment was reserved for women accused of violent crimes, and how the mass media played a role in the formation of collective memory."
The facts of the case may be disturbing to some students.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The first page "Welcomes" the learner with a beautiful, modern photograph of the Church of Ste. Philomène de Fortierville. It is the same church where on February 13, 1920, a coroner's inquest was made concerning the suspicious death of young Aurore and where the little girl's autopsy took place. Overall, the site is well laid out and easy to navigate. The instructions are clear and understandable. The site is quite appealing, very engaging, making the learner want to proceed and see what "happened next." Links to other sites work and are appropriate and relevant to the original site.
The sheer number of newspaper or magazine articles and government documents on one page can be overwhelming.
Other Issues and Comments:
When you click on any link under "Interpretations," you are asked for a "name" and "password" in order to gain access to the page, You are then asked to log onto a "restricted area" on another website (www.canadianmysteries.ca), which this reviewer did, but was unable to find any link allowing access back to the original site.
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