Woman highlighted in “The Burning Bed” book and movie dies in the Shoals; changed domestic violence laws nationwide

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COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. - Her life as a battered wife and how she escaped it was the subject of The Burning Bed, a book and television movie in the early 1980’s.

Molly Wilson, granddaughter of Francine Hughes Wilson

Francine Hughes sought refugee after her acquittal; remarrying and moving to the Shoals. For 35 years, very few people truly knew who Francine Wilson really was.

“She never wanted anybody to treat her differently because of it,” explained Molly Wilson, one of Francine's granddaughters.

For 13 years, Francine Hughes endured a living hell. Abused by her first husband, Hughes reached a desperate point in her life. With no laws preventing domestic violence in Michigan during the 1970s, Hughes took matters into her own hands. She took her husband's life by dousing him with gasoline and setting his bed on fire.

Photo taken at a party held after Francine Hughes' murder acquittal (Courtesy: Family)

The book "The Burning Bed" by Faith McNulty profiles Francine Hughes' story. Actress Farrah Fawcett portrayed Hughes in the TV movie that aired in 1984.

"Talking about it when she was alive brought pain to her every time," Molly said. "And now that she is resting, it’s a good time to talk about it."

Francine Hughes was charged with murder, but a jury acquitted her. After the trial she moved south, eventually ending up in Alabama with her children. Hughes remarried, changing her name to Francine Wilson. She also became a nurse.

Her case in Michigan opened eyes to the problem of domestic violence and created numerous laws across the nation. Author Faith McNulty wrote a book about Hughes' titled The Burning Bed, and actress Farrah Fawcett portrayed Hughes in the television movie.

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

Francine Hughes Wilson

Francine Wilson died last week from an extended illness. Her granddaughter wants people to remember her grandmother for the sacrifices she made to help others.

There has been a GoFundMe account set up to help with burial expenses for Wilson. She was buried on March 29th without life insurance or a burial policy.

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