Public Controversy over Woman’s Death Sentence in 1923

face of a prisoner

In a 1923 article entitled “Discouraging Gunwomen,” the Chicago Daily Tribune endorsed a death sentence for a woman who assisted in beating her husband to death in order to marry another man. One issue of public controversy was that the defendant was considered to be ugly. Her receiving the death penalty was generally attributed to her lack of beauty. The Tribune challenged that view:

The fact that the woman in the case was ugly and repulsive is beside the point. The fact that younger and more attractive women have been acquitted on evidence of guilt which seemed to the public to be equally clear is beside the point. Pathetic ugliness can be overplayed as easily as pathetic beauty in distress. The only matter properly considered is the evidence.^

The Tribune‘s position prompted letters to the editor defending more lenient treatment of women who kill.

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