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'The Burning Bed': Woman Who Inspired Domestic Abuse Awareness Dies

Image: 'The Burning Bed': Woman Who Inspired Domestic Abuse Awareness Dies
Francine Hughes Wilson, whose experience with domestic violence inspired the book and TV movie "The Burning Bed," died at 69. (Screengrab of Lansing State Journal video)

By    |   Friday, 31 Mar 2017 11:00 AM

The woman who inspired the bestselling book "The Burning Bed," raising awareness about domestic abuse died last week in Leighton, Alabama, after a battle with pneumonia. She was 69.

Francine Wilson, whose story of abuse became the basis for the bestselling book and TV movie "The Burning Bed," died March 22, according to the Detroit Free Press.

It was 40 years ago when Wilson — then known as Francine Hughes — told authorities at the Ingham County Jail in Mason, Michigan, that she had experienced at least 12 years of physical abuse from her ex-husband James (Mickey) Hughes.

However, that wasn't the only thing she told police, at the time. Wilson informed them of the abuse before confessing that she had poured gasoline on Hughes while he was sleeping in their home and then set their bed on fire, murdering her ex-husband, WHNT-TV reported.

That confession set the stage for a trial that inspired the book "The Burning Bed," which eventually turned into a TV movie with the same title, USA Today noted.

Wilson was ultimately found not guilty in the murder of her ex-husband, as jurors — 10 women and two men — agreed that insanity led to her actions.

Wilson’s granddaughter reminisced on what kind of woman she was.

"She had this upbeat demeanor and was just so caring and loving and happy," Molly Wilson said, according to USA Today. "I lived with her my entire life and didn't find out about what happened until I was 10 or 11 years old."

"She didn’t feel like it was something to be proud of," Molly added. "She never felt justified. She never felt free. I think that’s kind of why she kept it low key because I think she was ashamed and haunted by it."

The case moved the nation forward in dealing with domestic violence.

Wilson’s granddaughter said that many people can still benefit from Wilson’s story.

"A lot of people could really do with listening to the story and understanding and knowing what happened and why," Molly Wilson said, according to WHNT-TV.

For the last 30 or so years, Wilson tried to live a life away from the incident — a time that opened people’s eyes to domestic abuse issues, but also caused her a lot of pain.

Wilson remarried and moved to the Shoals in Alabama.

"She never wanted anybody to treat her differently because of it," Molly Wilson said.

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The woman who inspired the bestselling book "The Burning Bed," raising awareness about domestic abuse died last week in Leighton, Alabama, after a battle with pneumonia. She was 69.
burning bed, domestic abuse, awareness, francine hughes wilson
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2017-00-31
Friday, 31 Mar 2017 11:00 AM
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