Women and Capital Punishment in the United States

An Analytical History

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About the Book

The history of the execution of women in the United States has largely been ignored and scholars have given scant attention to gender issues in capital punishment. This historical analysis examines the social, political and economic contexts in which the justice system has put women to death, revealing a pattern of patriarchal domination and female subordination.
The book includes a discussion of condemned women granted executive clemency and judicial commutations, an inquiry into women falsely convicted in potentially capital cases and a profile of the current female death row population.

About the Author(s)

David V. Baker is a lecturer in sociology and criminology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. He holds a doctorate in sociology and a law degree. He has received National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships to study American slavery at the University of California at Irvine, and immigration policy at the University of California at Los Angeles and is deputy editor of the journal Criminal Justice Studies.

Bibliographic Details

David V. Baker
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 440
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9950-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2288-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Introduction    1

Organization  2

Part I. Theoretical and Empirical Frameworks

1. Theoretical Frameworks    6

Chivalry Theory  6

Evil Woman Theory  7

Equality Theory  9

A Critical Perspective  1

Capital Justice and the U.S. Supreme Court  12

Capital Justice and Women in the Modern Era  18

Concluding Remarks  30

2. Empirical Frameworks   31

Data  31

Characteristics  33

Historical Contours  40

Concluding Remarks  42

Part II. Historical Context

3. The First Historical Trend, 1630s–1750s   64

Executions of White Women  65

Executions of Black Women  83   

Executions of American Indian Women  90

Concluding Remarks  91

4. The Second Historical Trend, 1760s–1890s   92

Executions of White Women  92

Executions of Black Women  107

Executions of Mexican Women 128

Executions of American Indian Women  130

Execution of a Native Hawaiian Female 132

Correcting the Historical Record   132

Concluding Remarks  132  

5. The Third Historical Trend, 1900s–2010s  134

Executions of White Women  136

Executions of Black Women  160

Execution of an American Indian Woman  169

Correcting the Historical Record  170

Contrasting Lynchings and Executions  170

Concluding Remarks  171

Part III. Wrongful Convictions, Judicial Commutations, Executive Clemency and Women on Death Row Today

6. Wrongful Convictions in Potentially Capital Cases  174

Data  175

Factors Contributing to False Convictions  180

Predatory Murder  184

Spousal Murder  201

Child Murder  206

Shaken Baby Syndrome  220

Medical Neglect Cases Motivated by Religion  222

Manslaughter  223

Concluding Remarks  227

7. Judicial Reversals of Capital Convictions  229

Early Cases of Judicial Reversals  233

Judicial Reversals Post-Furman  239

Concluding Remarks  288

8. Executive Clemency of Condemned Women  290

Clemency and Gender  292

Women on Death Row Granted Clemency  292

Clemency in the 18th Century  298

Clemency in the 19th Century  302

Clemency in the 20th Century  314

Concluding Remarks  333

9. The Female Death Row Population  335

Institutional Indifference  337

Women Foreign Nationals  338    

Deaths of Condemned Women by Natural Causes  339

Characteristics of the Female Death Row Population  340

Predatory Murderers  341

Child Murderers  356

Spousal Murderers  364

Life Without Parole  370

Concluding Remarks  372  

Conclusion    373

The First Historical Trend  373

The Second Historical Trend  375

The Third Historical Trend  376

Chapter Notes    381

Bibliography    394

Index    425

Book Reviews & Awards

“this comprehensive and compelling text covers all aspects of women and capital punishment…a well-written and fascinating book. What is remarkable is the amount of research and time that went into collecting the enormous amount of information…essential”—Choice.