Grace Fortescue

Grace Fortescue
Grace Fortescue cph.3c34368.jpg
Grace Fortescue
Born November 3, 1883
Died June 24, 1979
Citizenship United States

Grace Hubbard Fortescue, née Grace Hubbard Bell (1883–1979), was a New York City socialite who murdered a man accused with the rape of her daughter, who was later proven innocent. Her actions only earned her a one-hour sentence for manslaughter.[1][2]


Grace Hubbard Bell was born November 3, 1883, in Washington, D.C. Her father Charles John Bell was first cousin of inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Her mother was Roberta Wolcott Hubbard Bell (1859–1885). Her maternal grandfather Gardiner Hubbard was the first president of Bell Telephone Company. [1] When her mother died in childbirth in 1885, her father married her mother's sister, Grace Hubbard.[3] [1]

The family lived at their Twin Oaks (Washington, D.C.) estate in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington DC.[4] Newspaper reports indicate that Grace could be classified a prankster: as a youth, she and her friends stole a trolley car for a joy ride through the streets of Washington and, on another occasion, she blocked traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue by joining hands with friends and roller-skating down the avenue.[5]

She married U.S. Army Major Granville "Rolly" Fortescue (1875–1952), one of the sons of Robert Barnwell Roosevelt. Her husband was first cousin of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. The marriage was not as financially successful as she would have wished.[2] She was the mother of three daughters: Marion Fortescue, who married Daulton Gillespie Viskniskki in 1934, Thalia Fortescue Massie (1911–1963), and Kenyon Fortescue Reynolds (1914–1990), better known as actress Helene Whitney.[4]

Outwardly, the Fortescues appeared to be wealthy country gentry. In reality, financial affairs became a primary concern for them after Granville's final retirement from the army. With the exception of a short stint as a fiction editor for Liberty magazine in 1930, he did not have steady employment, preferring to wait for the fortune his wife would inherit at the death of her parents.[5]

Murder trial

In 1932, Grace Fortescue—a graying woman of fair complexion, standing at 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm) tall and weighing 134 pounds (61 kg)—was charged with murder and convicted by a jury of manslaughter for the death of Joseph Kahahawai, one of the defendants in the alleged rape of her daughter Thalia in Hawaii in 1931.

Also charged and convicted with Fortescue were two sailors, Edward J. Lord and Deacon Jones, and Fortescue's son-in-law, Thomas Massie, who participated in the abduction and murder of Kahahawai.[2]

As of January 8, 1932, a criminal record indicates that while in Honolulu, Grace Fortescue lived on Kolowalu Street in Manoa Valley, a short distance from her daughter's home on Kahawai Street.

Attorney Clarence Darrow defended Fortescue, Jones, Massie, and Lord. He subsequently obtained a commutation of their sentence (ten years' imprisonment for manslaughter) to a one-hour confinement in the executive chambers of Territorial Governor Lawrence M. Judd.[2]


  1. ^ a b c "Grace Hubbard Fortescue (1883-1979)". The Island Murder. PBS. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Island Murder - Transcript". American Experience. PBS. April 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  3. ^ "Hubbard Family Tree". Bell Family Papers. US Library of Congress. Retrieved October 14, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Judith A. Spinzia; Raymond E. Spinzia (May 8, 2006). "Fortescue, Granville Roland (1875-1952)". Long Island's Prominent Families: Their Estates and Their Country Homes (PDF). I. ISBN 1-58939-785-1.
  5. ^ a b Spinzia, Raymond E. (Summer 2006). "Those Other Roosevelts: The Fortescues" (PDF). The Freeholder. Oyster Bay, NY, USA: Oyster Bay Historical Society. 11: 8–9, 16–22. OCLC 52571766. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  • David E. Stannard, "Honor Killing", Viking Penguin, 2005 (illustration number 28, entitled Mug Shots and arrest file of Grace Fortescue) ISBN 0-670-03399-5

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