Grace Winterton Humiston was born in Greenwich Village, New York on September 17, 1869. While she was practicing law at the turn of the century she would be only one of a thousand female lawyers in the United States. She was appointed the first female U.S. district attorney in history and the first female consulting detective to the New York Police Department. She dressed all in black with a veil and her motto was "Justice for those of limited means." She helped many immigrants who came to her door needing assistance that they could not get anywhere else without being swindled. She freed one man from death row and proved his innocence and in her very first case she got a woman's sentence commuted from death to seven years right before she was to be hanged.
She also, with the help of her trusted detective, Julius J. Kron, went after the peonage system that was mostly in the South where they lured immigrants to come and work there then they had it so they bought everything they needed at the company store at a marked up price. By the end of the month, they owed the company money and needed to keep working to pay off the debt unless someone could send money to them. The worst of them whipped them and made them work and kept them from leaving. It was just another form of slavery and the two of them took down a large part of the system.
Her biggest case, though, was the Cruger case. Ruth Cruger went out one winter's day in New York City on February 13, 1917, to run some errands. She had to go to the bank and to pick up her ice skates from the motorcycle shop where they were being sharpened. She never made it home. Her sister, Christina raised the alarm to her other sister Helen who was at work that Ruth hadn't come home yet and it had been hours. Helen told her she had probably gone ice skating but that she would look for her. Helen could not find her either and more importantly, Ruth had never made it to the bank. She called the lawyer their father, an accountant knew and he called their parents who were in Boston and then the police.
Helen retraced her steps the next day including the mysterious stop at a stationary store. She stopped by the motorcycle shop twice before it showed signs of being open and talked to Alfredo Cocchi the owner who said that he returned her skates and that she went east. The police received a report from a cab driver that Ruth was seen getting into a cab with a man. Now, Ruth was a sweet innocent young girl according to her family and while she talked about a boy she knew at Columbia University it wasn't serious enough to name him to her family or for her to run away with him. The police were now seeing this as a runaway case and not a kidnapping.
But because the case was so high profile and the victim so young and beautiful the mayor of New York made sure to get her picture out there and people saw it nationwide on the movie screen and in papers. She became known as the Heatherbloom Girl. Leads went nowhere. Mr. Cruger himself combed the area where she was last seen to be going and where the cab was said to have dropped her off and found nothing. There were girls who were called in about that looked like her but turned out not to be her. He had hired a detective at the start but that didn't work out so he fired him.
In June Mr. Cruger would hire Grace to help him find his daughter and help him she would. She didn't believe that his daughter had run away. She was quite sure that she was already dead and it was a matter of finding where the body was and she had a pretty good idea of where to look. While Grace would solve this case, the complexities of it would tie up the court system and make it hard for Ruth Cruger to get justice. This case really puts Grace on the map and she could do no wrong. She championed her pet cause of white slavery and helping young girls escape the clutches of forced prostitution. But the higher the pedestal, the greater the fall. And fall she would by her own hand. But she still never stopped helping people in need throughout her life and she was a woman to be admired for all her flaws.
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