Carolyn Whitzman is a writer and researcher who lives in Ottawa. She is the author of Suburb, Slum, Urban Village: Transformations in Parkdale, Toronto 1875–2000. She was living in Parkdale when she stumbled upon Clara Ford’s story and has remained fascinated with it for more than two decades.
Clara at the Door with a Revolver
By Carolyn Whitzman
Published by On Point Press (UBC Press)
On the night of October 6, 1894, Frank Westwood was shot to death by an unknown assailant as he stood in the doorway of his home. Six weeks later, Clara Ford – a Black tailor and single mother known for wearing men’s attire – was arrested and confessed to the murder. But as the details of her arrest and her history with Westwood emerged, Clara recanted, testifying that she was coerced by police into a false confession. Carolyn Whitzman tells the story of a courageous Black woman in nineteenth-century Toronto and paints a portrait of a city and a society that have not changed enough in 125 years.