«American female executions 1900 - 2014. A total of 53 women have been lawfully executed in 20 states of the USA between 1903 and February 2014, ...»
American female executions 1900 - 2014.
A total of 53 women have been lawfully executed in 20 states of the USA between 1903 and
February 2014, including two under Federal Authority. 52 of them died for first degree murder or
conspiracy to first degree murder and one for espionage.
39 executions took place between 1903 and 1962 and a further 14 since the resumption of the
death penalty in 1976, between 1984 and 2014. Shellie McKeithen (executed January 1946) is
erroneously included in some lists, but Shellie was male, despite his first name.
25 died in the electric chair, 12 by lethal injection, 9 by hanging and 7 in the gas chamber.
63 women were on death row as of January 2013, accounting for just 2.0% of the current death row population.
1) Thirty eight year old Dora Wright (black) became the first woman to be executed in the 20th century when she was hanged in Indian Territory at South McAllister, in what would become Oklahoma, on July 17, 1903. She was executed for the murder of 7 year old Annie Williams who is thought to have been her step daughter. Dora had beaten and tortured Annie repeatedly over a period of several months before finally killing her on February 2, 1903. According to a local newspaper it was “the most horrible and outrageous” crime in memory in the area.
On May 29, 1903 the jury took just 20 minutes’ deliberation to reach a guilty verdict, but were divided upon the sentence, with three voting for life and nine for death. After a further half an hour the three had been won round and death was the unanimous recommendation. Dora’s attorney travelled to Washington D. C. at his own expense to try and obtain clemency from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and Attorney General Philander Knox but this was denied. He had to appeal to the President as at the time there was no state governor. Having read the medical evidence of Annie’s injuries, Roosevelt remarked “If that woman was mean enough to do a thing like that, she ought to have the courage enough to meet her punishment.” Apparently the only reason for asking for clemency was that Dora was female.
Beside Dora on the gallows was Charles Barrett who was executed for a separate robbery/murder, by shooting, of James Hennessy in December 1902. Dora met her fate calmly after being allowed to say goodbye to the other female inmates. Just before 7 a.m. both prisoners ascended the gallows, Dora first, and were given a drop of 7 feet, dying without a struggle according to contemporary press reports. She took 13 minutes to die, after Deputy Marshall Henry Donathan pulled the lever. Some 100 people witnessed the executions from inside the stockade that had been erected around the gallows, with many hundreds more on the outside hoping to be able to catch a glimpse.
2) The next female execution was that of Mary Mabel Rogers, a 21 year old white housewife who walked unaided to the gallows for the murder of her estranged husband, Marcus, on August 12,
1902. She wanted rid of him so that she could have another man, one Morris Knapp, and also get Marcus’ life insurance of $400. She persuaded Marcus to go on a picnic in Bennington, Vermont, together with Leon Perham where they tried out a Houdini rope trick that Mary had learned. After demonstrating on herself how easy it was to get free Mary persuaded Marcus to let Perham tie him up and once secured, she chloroformed him, before rolling his unconscious body into the Walloomsac river where he drowned. The body was discovered the following day. As Marcus’ hands were still tied he had clearly not died by accident or suicide.
Mary came to trial on December 9, 1903 and pleaded not guilty. 17 year old Leon Perham was the key prosecution witness and admitted to helping Mary. She was convicted on December 22 and sentenced to death a week later. After a lot of unsuccessful legal maneuvering, including an appeal to the Supreme Court, which was dismissed on November 27, 1905, Governor Bell signed her death warrant and set the date for December 8, 1905. Bell received over 7,000 letters calling for a reprieve. Perham, got a life sentence for his part in the crime. It has been alleged that Mary had managed to have sex in prison with a convicted rapist, presumably in the hope of getting pregnant and thus being spared.
The hanging took place just after 1 p.m. at Windsor prison in Vermont on a gallows erected in a closed courtyard, the drop being sufficient to break her neck. At 12.45pm Mary changed into a purpose made long black dress for her execution. She walked unaided to the gallows and climbed the steps without assistance. She was allowed to sit for a moment and asked if she had any last words simply replied “No.” She asked that her glasses be given to her sister. Deputies tied her arms behind her and bound her legs with a cord tied around her dress. A long black hood that covered her head and shoulders was applied. Thus pinioned, hooded and noosed, Deputy Sheriff Spafford told Mary “I now proceed to execute the sentence of the law and may God have mercy on your soul”. The drop fell immediately after he had finished speaking at 1.13pm and she was pronounced dead 14 ½ minutes later. Only a small number of witnesses were permitted, including three reporters. Mary was reported to be the calmest person present. Such was the public interest in the case that a film reconstruction of the hanging was made a week later and shown in movie theatres. Click here to view.Her execution made front page news in papers across the country.
3) 29 year old, Irish immigrant, Mary O’Brien Farmer was convicted of the ax murder of her neighbor, Sarah Brennan in a bizarre property fraud. The murder took place at Brownville in Jefferson County, New York on April 23, 1908. Having killed Sarah, Mary stuffed her body into a trunk where it was discovered four days later in what had been Sarah’s house but was now Mary’s as she had forged a deed to transfer the house into her name and then evict Sarah’s husband, Pat.
Mary came to trial June 16, 1908, in the Jefferson County Courthouse before Justice Watson M.
Rogers and was convicted of the murder by an all male jury. She showed no emotion as she was sentenced to death in the electric chair. Her appeal was rejected and she was electrocuted at Auburn prison just after 5am on March 29, 1909, Edwin Davis sending three jolts of 1840 volts through her body to ensure death. The execution was witnessed by five women, including two prison officers. Mary was only the second woman to be electrocuted in the U.S. Prior to her death Mary wrote a letter exonerating her husband, James, who had also been condemned for the murder. He was later acquitted of the forgery charge as well.
From 1916 all New York executions took place at Sing Sing prison at Ossining on the Hudson River which had a new Death House constructed at the huge cost of $268,000. This could accommodate 24 male and three female inmates and had its own kitchen, hospital and autopsy room and was separate from the main prison. It also had its own generator facility to provide the power for executions. In total 614 men and women were executed here.
4) Virginia Christian (black) was the youngest female executed in the 20th century, when at age 17 she was electrocuted in Virginia for the murder of her employer, Ida Belote on March 18, 1912. She was the first woman to be put to death in Virginia and it was not until Teresa Lewis in 2010 that another Virginian woman would share this fate.
The murder took place on March 18, 1912 at Hampton after Virginia got angry over being reprimanded by Mrs. Belote for her poor work as a wash woman and accused of stealing. Virginia hit Ida with a broom handle before suffocating her by forcing a towel, her hair and her tongue down her throat. The body was soon discovered and Virginia arrested. She confessed to hitting Ida and to stealing some money and a ring but claimed not to know that she had killed her, saying that she acted in self defense. She was found guilty of murder on April 9, 1912 and all appeals, including a letter to Governor Mann from her mother failed. On August 16, 1912, just one day after her 17th birthday Virginia was led to the electric chair in Richmond prison at 7.18am. She showed no sign of fear and was pronounced dead at 7.25am, the execution having taken two minutes. Her body was returned to her family for burial in Hampton.
5) The next female execution took place at Forest, Mississippi on January 13, 1922, when Pattie Perdue (black) was hanged, together with her co-accused, Leon Viverett. They were executed for the robbery murder of Alton Page, a white man whom they had cut up after death and attempted to burn the body parts. Little other information on the crime and execution remains.
6) Ann Knight (black) was hanged at Leaksville, Mississippi with her co-defendant Will Green on October 13, 1922, for the murder of her husband. She denied her guilt to the last and prayed and sang on the gallows. Ann’s was one of four executions carried out on the same day in Mississippi at three different locations.
7) Ruth Brown Snyder was a 32 year old housewife who was electrocuted in New York’s Sing Sing prison on January 12, 1928, together with her boyfriend Henry Judd Gray, for the murder of her husband Albert on March 20, 1927 in Queen’s Village, Queens, New York.
She and Judd had been having an affair since 1925 and evolved a plan to kill Albert as he was in the way of their relationship. To compound the crime a $48,000 double indemnity life insurance had been taken out on Albert’s life. Gray hid in a closet until the couple returned home from a night out. He then hit Albert over the head with a sash weight, strangled him with picture wire and stuffed chloroform soaked rags up his nose, before tying him up and throwing his body on the bed, trying to disguise the crime scene as a burglary gone wrong. Gray also tied Ruth up to add verisimilitude. Their daughter, Lorraine, found her parents and called the police. They were immediately suspicious of the burglary ploy and by Ruth’s lack of grief or emotion. The police then discovered Ruth’s allegedly stolen jewelry hidden under the mattress. They also found a note signed J.G. Ruth asked the detective what Judd Gray had to do with the crime which made him suspicious as Gray had not been mentioned and in fact this particular J. G. was Albert’s former wife.
Both were arrested on the day of the murder. They came to trial at Long Island City Courthouse in April 1927 amid huge publicity, with each defendant blaming the other for the murder. It took the jury just 1 ½ hours to reach guilty verdicts on May 9, 1927 and the pair were sentenced to death.
On January 10, 1928 Governor Smith refused a reprieve for them. At a minute after 11 p.m. on January 12, 1928, Ruth Snyder was led into the death chamber. She had to be assisted by prison matrons into the chair. “Jesus, have mercy on me, for I have sinned”, she sobbed. She prayed, and as the mask went over her face, she again said, “Jesus, have mercy.” State executioner Robert Elliott threw the switch, and she was pronounced dead in two minutes. 10 minutes later Judd Gray calmly met the same fate. An illegal, but very famous, photograph of Ruth in the chair at the moment of death was taken by New York Daily News reporter, Tom Howard, using a concealed camera strapped to his leg. Ruth was only the second woman to be executed in Sing Sing’s chair, the first having been Martha Place in 1899.
Judd Gray At trial Ruth
Sing Sing’s electric chair Famous photo of Ruth’s final moment
8) Ada Bonner LeBoeuf, 38, was a wife and mother of four, who lived in Morgan City, Louisiana. In 1925 she started suffering from migraines and was attended by 46-year-old Dr Thomas Dreher, the LeBoeuf family doctor. The migraines tended to occur when Ada’s husband James, who was the superintendent of the local power plant was out and it wasn’t long before Ada and Dreher were having an affair. For two years this continued without James discovering it. But eventually the local rumor mill alerted him and he confronted both his wife and Dreher. This convinced Ada that Thomas would have to die before he killed them, so they hatched a plan to persuade James to go out on Lake Palourde with Ada for a romantic boat ride on the night of July 1, 1927. At a prearranged spot the LaBoeuf’s boat was intercepted by another boat containing Dreher and his friend James Beadle. A shotgun blast rang out and James collapsed in the boat. Ada went home by car while Dreher and Beadle disposed of James’ body in the lake. It remained concealed until July 6 when a badly decomposed corpse was discovered by fishermen. It was identified as James’ by his dentist.
Ada, Dreher and Beadle were all arrested and charged with the murder. Guilty verdicts were returned on all three on August 6, 1927. The jury recommended mercy for Beadle and he was sentenced to life in prison. Ada and Dreher were sentenced to hang. No mercy was forthcoming from Louisiana Governor Huey Long so after their appeals had been rejected the couple were hanged at noon on February 1, 1929 in the jail yard of the parish prison at Franklin, Louisiana.
Both maintained their innocence until the end.
Ada was executed first and complained that the noose was too tight. Her last words were "Oh God, isn't this a terrible thing ? Oh God, who can do this? It is worse than murder itself." She dropped through the tap at 12.10pm and was certified dead at 12.27. As soon as her body had been removed Dreher was hanged. He was certified dead at 12.52. In both cases their necks were broken. She was buried beside her husband in the Morgan City cemetery and Dreher was interred at Clayton.
The case received huge publicity nationwide, especially as she was the first white woman executed in Louisiana.
Ada Ada and Doc A younger Ada
9) Selina Gilmore, (black) became the first woman to die in Alabama's electric chair when she was executed on January 24, 1930 at Kilby Prison in Montgomery, Alabama. She had murdered a waiter (white) who had asked her to leave his restaurant because she was drunk and abusive. She left as requested, but soon returned with a shotgun and killed the waiter.
Her last moments were described by the victim’s uncle as follows: