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Emily Hilda Blake was born in 1878 and was orphaned at an early age. She lived at the Heckingham Workhouse in England. At the age of 10, she was sent to Canada with her brother, Tommy. She initially worked as a domestic servant for Alfred and Letitia Stewart near Brandon, Manitoba but spent the rest of her childhood moving from family to family. As a result, disputes arose about her guardianship. Blake eventually settled in Brandon and worked as a domestic servant for Robert and Mary Lane in 1898. On June 20, 1899, she purchased a revolver and ammunition from a Winnipeg gun store. Blake shot and killed Mary Lane while she was hanging curtains a few days later.

The discovery of Mary Lane’s body outside their family home on July 5, 1899, the police investigation, Blake's confession and arrest shortly after the crime, and her sentencing and execution garnered intense public interest.

Blake's childhood experiences and disturbing crime reflect the life of one Manitoba domestic servant – her status within the social order of 19th century prairie life, her views on gender and religion, and the path she travelled through the Manitoba justice system.