The Strange Case of Marie Chin Wore

A young girl was found wandering in the vicinity of New York City’s Bowery neighborhood on a cold day in February 1920. She was taken to a Christian missionary society, where she told authorities a disturbing story about having been forced to become the “child wife” of a much older man. Mary Banta, the missionary … Continue reading The Strange Case of Marie Chin Wore

One Knife and Two Diamond Rings

Grace Rogers and Marie Allison didn’t know each other before their arrests in San Francisco. But they were well acquainted by the time they escaped from the Ingleside Jail together. Twenty-year-old Grace and her husband had come to the city by steamer from Los Angeles in late June 1920. Soon after their arrival in San … Continue reading One Knife and Two Diamond Rings

Mother’s Murder

It began as just one more in the long string of quarrels between Dorothy Ellingson and her mother Anna. But this time the argument—their final one, as it turned out—culminated in tragedy: Dorothy shot her mother dead. Later, after the 16-year-old was arrested, some members of the press dubbed Dorothy “The Jazz Slayer.” Others called … Continue reading Mother’s Murder

Her Mona Lisa Smile

The smell must have been horrendous when the police finally entered the apartment, given how long the old man’s body had been lying there. It was murder — there was no question about that. He’d been shot with a single bullet to the back of the head. Robbery was thought to be the motive because … Continue reading Her Mona Lisa Smile

Christmas in the Tombs

Mrs. Catherine O. Neill will have to spend her Christmas in the Tombs Prison, much as she desires to be taken to Connecticut to be tried on the charge of murdering her husband, Joseph Neill, on the night of Dec. 14. Sheriff Rich of Greenwich says that this is due to Gov. Higgins being away … Continue reading Christmas in the Tombs

The Woman Without Tears

Thirty-two-year-old Frieda Trost gave the prison photographer a wide-eyed, stoic stare. Despite not showing any sign of emotion, she had plenty of reason to be afraid. Frieda had just been convicted of murdering her husband, William Trost, and was facing the noose. If her sentence was carried out, she would be the first woman executed … Continue reading The Woman Without Tears

Firebug

A fire broke out in a multi-family apartment building at 114 Wyckoff Street in Brooklyn on the night of December 10, 1907. The building was located in the heart of what was then one of the borough’s most populous tenement districts. Heat from blaze damaged the water pipes, causing water to drip through the floor … Continue reading Firebug

Women on Opposite Sides of the Law

Please join me and fellow author, Denise Testa, for our discussion of three women who stood on opposite sides of the law: Jessie Levy and Bess Robbins, who defended six members of the infamous John Dillinger gang in the early 1930s, and Sophie Lyons, who was one of the most notorious female criminals of the … Continue reading Women on Opposite Sides of the Law

The Lady Swindler

Gazing up, in her little veiled hat topped with its ridiculous feather, Marion L. Dow looks tiny, cute and entirely harmless. But a con artist should look harmless—isn’t that the point? She was born Marion Gratz in New Brunswick, Canada in 1846. The 19th century was an era when crime was the domain of men. … Continue reading The Lady Swindler

The San Quentin Follies

The follies were a high point in the dreary lives of the prisoners at San Quentin. An annual tradition held near the end of December, the prisoners wrote, directed and starred in each and every act. During the early years, when there were few female prisoners, the men produced and acted in the show, dressing … Continue reading The San Quentin Follies

The Divine Miss Devine

She gazes off in the distance with a look of calm confidence on her face. With her hair pulled tightly back from her forehead, a small curl nestling near her ear and delicate lace gloves on her hands, she appears to be the epitome of a beautiful and alluring antebellum woman. It was in the … Continue reading The Divine Miss Devine

The Jailbreakers’ Will

It happened in the early hours of the morning on December 4, 1891. Two police officers were standing outside the Broadway Jail in San Francisco when they noticed two men walk into Hinckley alley, a narrow pathway that ran next to the jail building. Wondering what the men were doing there so late at night, … Continue reading The Jailbreakers’ Will