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Be Good, Sweet Maid: The Trials of Dorothy Joudrie

by Audrey Andrews

Cynics could argue that Dorothy Joudrie was guilty of hyperbole when she fired six bullets into the body of her estranged husband, Earl. Despite her excessive gesture (and partly because Dorothy called 911 shortly thereafter), Earl lived to hear all the bad jokes about his wife’s poor marksmanship.

The ensuing airing of the Joudrie domestic linens was a shock to the upper-echelon Calgarians with whom the couple had socialized. On Jan. 21, 1995, Dorothy was arrested for attempted murder. Tremors started in the subsequent trial when the long history of Earl’s physical abuse was established, along with Dorothy’s alcoholism. The eruptions continued when she was sentenced to five months’ psychiatric treatment instead of time in jail.

University English instructor Audrey Andrews was equally shocked: she had gone to school with Dorothy in Edmonton and never expected to see her fun-loving childhood friend making such lurid headlines.

Be Good, Sweet Maid is Andrews’ attempt to explain how Dorothy stepped beyond the strictures of her respectable 1940s upbringing. The result is an unsettling mélange of feminist analysis, court transcripts, personal rumination, and sociological maundering. Andrews aims to penetrate the “silence surrounding the private lives of wives of corporate executives.” She finds that wealthy women like Dorothy exploit “their traditional role as ladies. They play a clever game of just the right amount of flattery, flirtation, subservience, and complicity. On its darker side, this can be a game of perverse manipulation, a cruel game of trickery, deception, and careful, deliberate control.” Men, she writes, feel safe playing this game with women because they believe “that in the end they will have the upper hand.”

However, Be Good, Sweet Maid gives us no real insights into Dorothy’s inner life. Sadly, the resultant mish-mash only conspires to trivialize Dorothy Joudrie’s story.