It’s not widely known, but the story of Angelina Napolitano is a flashpoint in the early development of women’s right in Canada. And it is the cornerstone of “Swing Batter,” the intense new single by Toronto’s Skye Wallace, who unveiled the track and video, rather fittingly, with a local performance on International Women’s Day. (Scroll down for details).
Napolitano was the first woman in Canada to cite her status as a battered woman as a defence against the murder of her husband, Pietro, who was, by all accounts, a nasty piece of work. Not only did Pietro savagely and regularly beat his wife — who bore him four children and was pregnant with their fifth at the time of the murder — Pietro also insisted Angelina turn tricks for profit.
It was all too much on Easter Sunday in 1911. As Pietro napped in their Sault Ste. Marie home, Angelina killed him with an axe. The ensuing media hoopla — exacerbated by the death sentence meted out to Angelina and her status if you can call it that, as a female murderer and an Italian immigrant (read: outsider) in prim Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario — drew global interest in the case.
Angelina Napolitano’s battered woman defence proved persuasive, galvanizing petitioners across North America and highlighting the unfairness of the original court ruling. She was ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment instead of death. But her life after serving 11 years was doubtless ruined. The baby she was carrying at the time of the murder died shortly after its birth and her other children were placed in foster homes. Angelina reportedly died in 1932.
Such drama fires the swooping, kinetic “Swing Batter,” Wallace’s first new material since 2016’s Something Wicked and a tantalizing suggestion of what’s to come from the singer/songwriter described, rather aptly, as “what happens when a classically trained singer with East Coast roots discovers punk rock in [her] youth.”
Samaritanmag chatted with Wallace about the new single’s harrowing backstory and why Wallace, with those traditional roots and a keen eye for lyrical detail, is ideally suited to giving voice to the cruelly subjugated Angelina Napolitano more than a century after her tragic crime – continue reading on Samaritanmag