Knelman, Judith

From Senior College Encyclopedia
Jump to navigationJump to search

Judith Knelman

d. 9 October 2020

Professor Emeritus

Judith Knelman, Ph.D. (1940 - October 9, 2020). Professor emeritus of Information and Media Studies, Western University. She was a journalist, teacher and academic.


JUDITH KNELMAN, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Western University, died at her home in Toronto on Oct. 9 at the age of 81. She had been ill with pancreatic cancer. Born and raised in Winnipeg, she moved to Toronto with her then-husband, Joe Gelmon, in 1960 and established a dual career as a writer and teacher. In Twisting in the Wind, a history of murder by women in nineteenth-century England, she documented attitudes to female deviancy as seen in Victorian newspapers. Her son Tom Gelmon predeceased her in 2015. She is survived by her son John Gelmon (Martine Stonehouse); her brother, Martin Knelman (Bernadette Sulgit); her nephew, Joshua Knelman (Nicole Greenspan) and her niece, Sara Knelman (Mark Weeden) and grand-nephew Leonard Weeden. There will be no funeral. Cremation has taken place.

Published by The Globe and Mail from Oct. 13 to Oct. 17, 2020.


Judith Knelman, who died on Oct. 9, at 81, was a journalist, teacher and academic who artfully combined these disciplines. Her 1998 book, Twisting in the Wind: The Murderess and the English Press, set a new standard in Canada for interdisciplinary work.

“Her book was groundbreaking in many ways,” said Romayne Smith Fullerton, who taught with Ms. Knelman at the University of Western Ontario. Toward the end of Ms. Knelman’s time at Western, the journalism department merged with library sciences to become the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. “The new direction of the faculty was to be interdisciplinary. Judith was already ahead of that curve.”

Ms. Knelman researched her book by mining newspaper archives during summer trips to Britain. She discovered that a surprisingly high number of women committed murder in 19th-century England and analyzed their treatment by the press. “She was doing work that no one had done in that area, no one talked about,” Ms. Smith Fullerton said. Subsequently, academics frequently cited the book in their own work on women, crime and media portrayals.

Her work in academic journals covered class and gender bias in Victorian newspapers, the amendment to the Sale of Arsenic Bill of 1851 in England (which related to female murderers, who often used poison), the Victorian marriage market and the Victorian invention of the diagnosis of “nervous debility” in women.

Ms. Knelman also maintained a freelance journalism career, contributing to Chatelaine, the Toronto Star and other publications. In 1997, she wrote a heartfelt piece about her mother and Eaton’s for The Globe and Mail. For the University of Toronto Quarterly, in 1999, she criticized Margaret Atwood’s understanding of murder and servant women in Alias Grace.