When it comes to the execution of women, it is considered rare, compared to men. Even though it is rare, there have been about 560 (since 1632) documented female executions in America. The rate of women executed has dropped in the last century, with 50 women being executed between 1903 - 2007 and 10 in the last 23 years.

 If you check the statistics on murders in the US, women account for approximately 10% of the murders, but women only constitute 1.4% of the death row population. So even though women commit significantly fewer murders, juries are less likely to impose the maximum penalty for their crime.

Why do women less likely to receive the death penalty ? There is no correct answer to that question, there theories on why women are not equal when the death penalty is the punishment. Some are:

  • Women are considered the gentler sex
  • Women are considered the nurturers of society
  • Women are not considered as violent
  • The murders women commit are different
  • Women are much more likely to murder a family member

While there may be truths to all those theories, none of them are 100% correct. Between the years 1632 and 1899, the rate of female executions was almost at a rate of 2 per year. Since 1977, the rate is 0.33 per year (1 every 3 years). The difference of opinions during that era and the modern era is best defined by the following 2 examples.

Hanged for murder, this was a quote about Elizabeth Potts (from the "Elko Independent"):

"To her we look for everything that is gentle and kind and tender; and we can scarcely conceive her capable of committing the highest crime known to the law."

Yet when we look at a more recent female murderer, Aileen Wuornos, I believe the contrast is plainly obvious when we look at the name of a movie depicting her life and murders:


That example was chosen to demonstrate the difference between to 2 eras and the first quote was not entirely fair. Here is a quote about Catharine Wilson, who was executed in 1862.

"She was as foul in life as bloody in hand, and she seems not to have spared the poison draught even to the partners of her adultery and sensuality."

To be continued .......


Women Executed in America since 1900

DORA WRIGHT - July 17, 1903

Dora was hanged in a public execution in Oklahoma, for the murder and mutilation of her (assumed) step daughter. A local paper called the crime "the most horrible and outrageous" ever commited in that area. The paper described Wright as a "Demon" and a "Fiend".


MARY MABLE ROGERS -  Dec. 8, 1909

At the age of 19, Mary murdered her husband and became the second women executed (hanged) in Vermont. Less than a year prior to the murder of her husband, her 6 month old daughter died of a fractured skull. Rogers claimed that she had dropped the infant, but her in-laws suspected she had killed her baby. 


MARY FARMER - Mar. 29, 1909

Mary murdered her land lady (Sarah Brennan) with an ax and stored her body in a trunk. The Times, in 1908, called it "one of the most fiendish murders ever". Her husband was convicted of the murder as well, but after spending  53 weeks on death row, his conviction was reversed on appeal. While he was on death row, his cell was only of few feet from the execution chamber where his wife was executed. Farmer was the second women executed in the electric chair in New York (state).



Virginia, a "wash girl", murdered her employer (Ida Belote) and stole $4.00. The 17 year old girl was electrocuted in the state of Virgina's electric chair. She was the last female minor executed in the US.


PATTIE PERDUE - Jan. 13, 1922

Perdue and her co-accused, Leon Viverett were hanged for the robbery murder of Alton Page, a white man whom they had cut up after death and attempted to burn the body parts.


RUTH BROWN SNYDER - Jan. 12, 1928

Ruth, along with her lover (Judd Gray), was electrocuted for the murder of her husband.  After obtaining a $48 000 life insurance policy on her husband, she began planning the murder with Gray. Tom Howard was able to conceal a camera attached to his ankle and took the "death shot" for the "New York Daily Times" (pictured at the top of this page).


ADA LEBOUEF - Feb. 1, 1929

Ada and her lover (The family doctor) hired a handy man to murder her husband in Louisiana. The  couple were sentenced to hang, but the handy man was sentenced to life. While the hangman prepared Ada for the execution, it was reported that Ada stated, "Oh God, isn't this a terrible thing ? Oh God, who can do this ? It is worse than murder itself ". Then after the noose was placed over her head she said, "Oh. Oh, that rope is too tight". When the guard tried to assure her it wasn't she replied, "Yes it is". 


SELENA GILMORE - Jan. 24, 1930 

Selena was Electrocuted in Alabama's "YELLOW MOMMA" for the shotgun murder of a waiter.


EVA DUGAN - Feb. 21, 1930

Eva was the only woman ever executed in Arizona. She was hanged for the murder of Tucson rancher Andrew J. Mathis (a Former employer). During her 2 years on death row, Eva gave interviews to the press, charging a dollar per visit. During her execution, she was decapitated, with her head rolling into a corner, to the shock of the 75 spectators (including 7 women).


IRENE SCHROEDER - Feb. 23, 1931

Irene was the first woman executed in Pennsylvania. The 22 year old mother was convicted of fatally shooting a state highway patrol officer and sentenced to die in the electric chair. The news papers gave her many monikers such as, "Animal Woman" and "Blonde Bandit". A reporter overheard her 5 year old son Donnie say, "I'll bet my mom would make an awful nice angel", after one of his visits.


ANNA ANTONIO - Aug. 9, 1934 

Reported as a battered wife, Anna was sentenced to die in New Yorks electric chair for hiring 2 men to murder her husband. Just 10 minutes before the scheduled execution, she received her first of many stays. One of the men that had killed her husband has stated that Anna had nothing to do with the crime. A 24 hour stay, became a week stay, then became a month stay. During this period she barely ate and weighed less than 85 pounds when she was finally executed. Many criticized Governor Lehman for not saving Anna’s life. To his critics he replied, “The law makes no distinction of sex in the punishment of crime; nor would my own conscience permit me to do so”.


JULIA MOORE - Feb. 8, 1935

Julia Moore (aka Julia powers, Julia Williams) was sentenced to hang in Louisiana, for the murder of Elliot Wilson.


MAY H. CAREY - June, 7, 1935 

May was sentenced to hang for murdering her single brother (Robert Hitchens). Carey enlisted the aid of two of her sons to commit the murder. The crime went unsolved for seven years, until May's youngest son was arrested for another crime. He revealed hearing his mother and two older brothers plotting his uncles murder. May and her eldest son Howard were executed on the same day. She was the third woman to be executed in Delaware.


EVA COO - June 27, 1935 

Eva (with the help of Martha Clift) murdered Henry Wright and was sent to the electric chair for her crime. Eva hit Henry over the head with a mallet and Martha drove over him several times, all to collect on his insurance policies. 



Frances had already been acquitted on 2 previous murder charges, prior to killing Ada Applegate. Frances poisoned Ada with arsenic so Everett Applegate could marry France's 14 year old daughter. Everett was electrocuted moments after Frances.


MARY HOLMES - April 29, 1937

The last woman hanged in the United States was Mary Holmes, a 35 year old black woman, in Mississippi for robbery and murder.


MARIE PORTER - Jan. 28, 1938

The last woman executed in Illinois, Marie was electrocuted for ordering her brother murdered for $3,300 in life


ANNA HAHN - Dec. 7, 1938

Anna Hahn was the object of Ohio’s Trial of the Century. Ana was a female serial killer and although Nobody knows how many people died by her hand, but she was convicted of one death, admitted killing four, and poisoned at least eight others. Anna was electrocuted in Ohio.


JUANITA SPINELLI - Nov. 21, 1941

The first woman executed in the gas chamber (US), Juanita was also the first woman to be executed (legally) in California. Named the "Duchess" of a Bay Area robbery gang, she was convicted in the murder of a gang member she feared would inform on her. "The coldest, hardest character, male or female, I have ever known," Warden Duffy wrote, "a homely, scrawny, nearsighted, sharp-featured scarecrow. . . . The Duchess was a hag, evil as a witch, horrible to look at, impossible to like, but she was still a woman and I dreaded the thought of ordering her execution."


TONI HENRY - Nov. 28, 1942

Called the sultry brunette, Toni Jo was only 26 years old when she went to the electric chair in Louisiana. In a plan that was doomed to fail, Toni Jo murdered a man in the process of stealing his car. Toni Jo was going to use the car to break her husband out of prison. It is believed that she would have never been caught for this murder had she not given a full confession, before the crime had even been discovered.



Rosanna was convicted in the ax murder of her employer and sentenced to North Carolinas' gas chamber.


SUE LOGUE - Jan. 15, 1943

Sue was electrocuted for her involvement in the hire for murder of Davis Tmmerman in South Carolina. Timmerman had been (2 years prior acquitted of murdering Sue's husband. Her accomplices were her nephew and a brother in law.


MILDRED JOHNSON - May 19, 1943

Mildred was electrocuted in Mississippi for beating her landlady to death.


HELEN FOWLER - Nov. 16, 1944 

The only black female electrocuted in New York state. It is understood that Helen had not committed the murder, in the middle of deliberations, the jury asked for clarification on one issue. They wanted to know if a person who didn’t actually kill anyone could be found guilty of murder. The Judge assured them that two persons could be found guilty of the same murder even if only one of them actually committed the offense.


BESSIE WILLIAMS - Dec. 29, 1944 

Bessie was executed in the gas chamber in North Carolina for the murder of a taxi cab driver. She was the last female executed in North Carolina.


LENA BAKER - Mar. 5, 1945

Lena was electrocuted in Georgia for the murder of Ernest B. Knight. Almost 60 years after her execution, Lena was pardoned in 2005. Her last words were "What I done, I did in self-defense, or I would have been killed myself ... I am ready to meet my God". Lena was electrocuted 6 times before being pronounced dead. The headlines in the paper after the execution stated "Baker Burns".



Shellie was electrocuted in Pennsylvania for murder.


CORRINE SYKES - Oct. 14, 1946 

Corrine, a housemaid in Pennsylvania, died in the electric chair for stabbing a Philadelphia woman and stealing $2,000 in jewelry.


ROSA STINETTE - Jan. 17, 1947

The last woman executed in South Carolina, Rosa, a Black domestic worker was electrocuted for a murder committed in Florence County.


LOUISE PEETE - April 11, 1947

It seems that almost every where Louise went, people died, but she had only been charged with 3 murders and convicted of 2. She spent 19 years in prison after the first murder and then was executed in California's gas chamber after the second conviction.


MARTHA BECK - Mar. 7, 1951

Martha was "an obese sex slave of Raymond Martinez Fernandez and they came to be known as the "lonely hearts killers" in the nation's press. It is believed that the odd couple was responsible for the murders of 17 women and 1 child. She was often ridiculed by the press about her weight. She would write a series of tearful, angry letters from prison to the media complaining of the unfair treatment she received from columnists.  Martha was electrocuted in New York.



Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American communists who received international attention when they were executed (Federal) for passing nuclear weapon secrets to the Soviet Union. Upon being sentenced to death, the judge stated, "I consider your crime worse than murder". In the years that have since followed, there is controversy over Ethel's involvement in the crime.


EARLE DENNISON - Sept. 4, 1953

The 16th woman executed Alabama, but the first white women. Earle poisoned her niece and was electrocuted in Alabama. Earle had taken an overdose of sleeping pills and was unconscious when arrested. Her last words were "Please forgive me for everything I did. I forgive everybody."


BONNIE HEADY - Dec. 12, 1953

Bonnie and Carl Hall kidnapped and murdered a 6-year-old boy, then managed to extract a king's ransom from his wealthy father, a Kansas City Cadillac dealer.


DOVIE DEAN - Jan. 15, 1954

Dean tried to lay the blame on her stepson, before attempting to stitch her own son up by asserting that he’d poisoned her 68-year-old husband Hawkins. The couple had been married for just five short months before the death took place. Hawkins had ingested some kind of toxin, maybe rat poison, and had died a painful death. Dovie died by electrocution.


BETTY BUTLER - June 12, 1954

A destitute mother of two, Betty was supported by another female (the victim) in exchange for sex. The "couple" had many domestic disputes, including the incident resulting in the murder. Butler beat he lover unconscious and then drowned her by hold her by the legs in a lake, which was witnessed by two fishermen. She was the last female executed in Ohio, by electrocution. 


BARBARA GRAHAM - June 3, 1955

Barbara was sent to the gas chamber for the murderer of Mabel Monahan. There is speculation as to her guilt or innocence. Her story was told in the 1958 movie "I Want To Live," starring Susan Hayward as Graham and a remake in the 1980s starring Lindsey Wagner.


RHONDA MARTIN - Oct. 11, 1957

Martin was electrocuted in the electric chair for killing 6 people (family members) with poison. 



Ms. Duncan, known to the world as "Ma Duncan," planned the murder of her pregnant daughter-in-law during the 1950's. In 1958, Elizabeth hired two men to murder her pregnant daughter-in-law out of jealousy of her son, Frank, an attorney. Frank met his wife, a nurse, at a hospital after Elizabeth attempted suicide in a ploy to keep him from leaving home. Elizabeth becomes the last female to be executed in the U.S. prior to the abolishment of the death penalty in 1967. She is convicted of hiring two drifters. Augustine Baldonado, 28, and 23-year-old Luis Moya, to murder her pregnant daughter-in-law, Olga Duncan, in 1958. "I am innocent," the 58-year-old purportedly tells bystanders before going to San Quentin's gas chamber. "I want to see my son." Frank represented his mother at her trial. Duncan and the men were executed in San Quentin's gas chamber on August 8, 1962.

VELMA BARFIELD - Nov. 2, 1984

Barfield gained notoriety as the "Death Row Granny," becoming the first woman to be executed in the U.S. since 1962, and the first since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.


KARLA FAYE TUCKER - Feb. 3, 1998

Tucker was on Texas death row for the brutal pickax murders of Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton on June 13, 1983. Karla never once denied her guilt and spent the next 14 years on death row turning her life around as a Christian and helping others along the way.


JUDY BUENOANO - Mar. 30, 1998

Known as the "Black Widow", Buenoana  poisoned her husband with arsenic, drowned her paralyzed son and tried to blow up her fiance with a car bomb and another boyfriend "mysteriously" died. Judy Buenoano reportedly received the moniker “Black Widow", from the prosecutor for her trial. “When I was asking the judge in the drowning case to admit the other killings (as evidence), I said “Judge … she’s like a black widow — she feeds off her mates and her young,”’ prosecutor Russell Edgar said.

BETTY LOU BEETS - Feb. 24, 2000

Beets was sentenced to death for the shooting death of her 5th husband, Jimmy Don Beets at their home, in eastern Texas. The prosecutor said she killed her firefighter husband to collect his $100,000.00 Life Insurance Benefits and his pension. His body was discovered in a Wishing Well on their property, surrounded by a flower garden. Police also found the skeletal remains of her fourth husband Doyle Wayne Baker, buried under a storage shed at the home. He also had been shot to death, his disappearance had remained unsolved till they searched her property during their investigation of her 5th husband. She declined to make a final statement before she died by lethal injection.



Riggs, a licensed nurse, was convicted of murder by smothering her two preschool-aged children in their beds at the family's Sherwood home. 



WANDA JEAN ALLEN - Jan. 11, 2001

The victim, who lived with Allen in a lesbian relationship, was picked up by her mother and taken to police station to file complaint against Allen. Allen followed and confronted them outside station, shot victim in stomach at close range. They had met in prison, where Allen was serving time for manslaughter after killing former lover Detra Pettus in 1981. 


MARILYN PLANTZ - May 1, 2001

Plantz hired her teenage boyfriend Clifford Bryson and his friend William McKimble to kill her husband for his life insurance policy. Entering his home after work, he was ambushed by Bryson and McKimble and beaten with baseball bats while Plantz and kids were asleep in bed. Plantz got up and instructed them to "burn him" to make it look like an accident. They drove him to deserted location, doused him and his pickup with gasoline and set her husband on fire. McKimble pled to Life and testified. Plantz and Bryson were tried jointly, both receiving the death penalty. Bryson was executed in 2000.


LOIS NADEAN SMITH - Dec. 4, 2001

Received Lethal Injection for the murder of 21-year-old Cindy Baillee. Baillee was the former girlfriend of Smith's son, Greg. Smith, along with her son and another woman, picked up Baillee from a Tahlequah motel early on the morning of the murder. As they drove away from the motel, Smith confronted Baillee about rumors that Baillee had arranged for Greg Smith's murder - charges which Baillee denied. Smith choked Baillee and stabbed her in the throat as they drove to the home of Smith's ex-husband in Gans. At the house, Smith forced Baillee to sit in a recliner and taunted her with a pistol, finally firing several shots. Baillee fell to the floor, and while her son reloaded the pistol, Smith laughed and jumped on Baillee's neck. She then fired four shots into Baillee's chest and two to the back of her head. An autopsy revealed nine gunshot wounds to Baillee's body. 


LYNDA LYON BLOCK - May 10, 2002

After killing a police officer, Lynda refused to accept the validity of Alabama as a State, or it's judical system, claiming that Alabama never became a State after the Civil War. She was totally uncooperative with her court-appointed Attorney. She requested no last meal and no last statement, before being electrocuted and then was buried in the Holman Prison cemetery.

AILEEN WUORNOS - Oct. 9, 2002

Wuornos had a lengthy criminal record which included charges of disorderly conduct, drunk driving, assault, armed robbery, check forgery, auto theft, and prostitution. In 1991 she confessed to killing six men in 1989 and 1990. She claimed they had all raped her while she was working as a prostitute, although shortly before her death she admitted there were no rapes, and robbery was her motive. There was some question as to whether she was legally sane; the Florida Supreme Court eventually ruled she was competent for execution. She herself told the court, "I am one who seriously hates human life and would kill again. There is no point in sparing me. It's a waste of taxpayer's money." Aileen was executed in Florida's Starke Prison, by lethal injection. Her last words were, "I'd just like to say I'm sailing with the rock, and I'll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I'll be back." A childhood friend claimed her body and scattered her cremains under a walnut tree in her back yard, near where she and Aileen grew up. Her life is the subject of the movie "Monster," with Charlize Theron portraying her. 


FRANCES NEWTON - Sept. 15, 2005

Newton was convicted in the April 1987 slaying of her husband and children for insurance money. Killed were her husband, Adrian, 23, her son, Alton, 7, and daughter, Farrah, 21 months. All were shot to death with a .25 caliber pistol that belonged to Newton's boyfriend. Newton and her husband had separated about a month prior to the killings.