Meet the Author: Suzanne Ondrus, Death of an Unvirtuous Woman

Mary Bach Exhibit
A re-examining of social, gender and economic pressures in a landmark domestic violence case in 1881 Northwest Ohio.

By Kelli Comer

Local poet Suzanne Ondrus delves into Northwestern Ohio history in her latest collection of poetry, Death of An Unvirtuous Woman. Readers will take a trip back in time to Bowling Green, Ohio in 1881 to explore the astonishing and violent relationship of Carl and Mary Bach, a German immigrant couple at the center of a fatal domestic violence case.

A few weeks after filing a restraining order against Carl in July 1881, Mary filed for divorce. She did not want to sell the house that she co-bought and co-owned, so she refused to sign the deed for Carl to sell it. On October 10, 1881, at seven months pregnant, Mary was murdered by Carl. Shockingly, the local newspaper depicted Mary as an unkempt, domineering and overbearing woman who was to blame for her own murder. “While Carl Bach goes down in history with the spotlight on him as the last man hanged in Wood County, Ohio, I try to show how Mary Bach courageously resisted by legal means, and I point to a troubling lack of bystander intervention,” Suzanne notes.

Local poet Suzanne Ondrus delves into Northwestern Ohio history in her latest collection of poetry, Death of An Unvirtuous Woman.

Like much of Suzanne’s work, this book has a personal connection, inspired by her fascination with Wood County Historical Society’s exhibit on the case, which she came across while attending Bowling Green State University. “I was haunted by the corn knife, the woman’s preserved severed fingers from 1881, the noose, and by the words ‘slatternly, virago and termagant’—which were used by the 1883 newspaper to describe Mary Bach, the victim.”

Unsure of what these words meant, Suzanne researched and learned that they were all derogatory words used specifically for women. Shocked and appalled, she kept replaying the case over and over in her head. “It was as if the press was saying she was to blame for her husband killing her,” Suzanne says. “Years later, I learned that this is called ‘victim-blaming.’ Since I speak German and have lived in Germany, I was intrigued that this involved a German immigrant couple.”

Suzanne is a poet, educator and advocate. In addition to teaching creative writing, composition, women’s studies and African literature, she helps create safe spaces through training in gender issues, sexual harassment, women’s empowerment, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Her first book, Passion Seeds, won the 2013 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize from Little Red Tree Press and her poems have appeared in numerous journals.

Suzanne received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies from the University of Connecticut. She also holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from BGSU, an M.A. in English and a B.A. in International Business and Management.

Suzanne Ondrus

Suzanne recently won first prize for Adult Prose in Geauga Park District’s nature writing contest and runner-up for Prose in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Review.

To reach Suzanne, you can email her at To learn more about the poet, her work, her events and to purchase books, visit