chapter  4
27 Pages

Feminist research, state power and executed women: The case of Louie Calvert

Analysis of statistics relating to women who were sentenced to death during the fi rst half of the twentieth century reveals that 91 per cent were reprieved (Royal Commission 1953 ). Hence, most condemned women eventually experienced some form of life after punishment as free individuals. The vast majority of women who received the death penalty during this period had killed a close family member – most frequently their child or partner. 1 For example, of the 130 women sentenced to death for murder in England and Wales between 1900 and 1950, ‘102 had killed a child, nearly always their own’ (Ballinger 2000 : 1). Such crimes are exemplifi ed by the cases of Florence Boxhall (1910), Hannah Wilson (1916), Ada Cook (1918) and Edith Roberts (1921), all of whom were sentenced to death for killing their infant or toddler and subsequently had their sentence commuted to life imprisonment. These women could expect to serve a sentence of between one and seven years, with the vast majority serving approximately three years in prison (National Archives HO144/1749/419784).