In June 1980, the twenty-eight-year-old East London barmaid Sandie Craddock was charged with stabbing her nineteen-year-old co-worker to death. Presented in Craddock’s defence were diaries and institutional records documenting years of violent outbursts following a cyclical pattern. Her lawyers argued that the true culprit was Craddock’s pre-menstrual tension (PMT, a symptom of premenstrual syndrome, PMS), which “turned her into a raging animal each month and forced her to act out of character,” leaving her with little memory of her actions. The barmaid walked away from a manslaughter conviction with nothing more than probation and a court order to take progesterone supplements, successfully having argued diminished responsibility due to extreme PMS. The following year, having changed her name to Smith, she was before the courts again, this time for threatening a policeman with a knife in Islington. Once more she was released on probation.
Craddock-Smith and premenstrual syndrome were catapulted into the tabloid spotlight, unleashing a flurry of headlines such as “Premenstrual Frenzy,” “Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde,” “PMS: The Return of the Raging Hormones,” and “Once a Month I’m a Woman Possessed.” Articles were peppered with phrases such as “the monthly monster, ” the “menstrual monster,” the “inner beast,” and “raging beasts.” New York filmmaker Jacqueline Garry credits the media headlines with her inspiration for her heroine, Frida Harris, in the 1999 film, The Curse. The film sees normally mild-mannered “doormat” Frida transform into a homicidal, lupine femme fatale when her period is due (corresponding with the full moon), waking to find that the blood on her sheets is not always her own.