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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200181 Find in a Library
Title: "I Loved Joe, But I Had to Shoot Him": Homicide by Women in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:92  Issue:3/4  Dated:Spring/Summer 2002  Pages:867-897
Author(s): Jeffrey S. Adler
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 31
Type: Historical Overview; Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study focused on the circumstances that led women in Chicago to commit homicides between 1875 and 1920.
Abstract: Both the homicide rate for women and the proportion of homicides committed by women increased during this era. The homicide rate for women increased fourfold, slightly exceeding the overall level of increase in the city's homicide rate, while the proportion of homicides committed by women spiked by nearly one-third. The latter figure is particularly significant, since it indicates that women committed an increasing proportion of a rising total. The years in which homicides by women increased were not necessarily the same years in which homicides by men increased. Women committed homicides at one-fifteenth the rate of men, but when they resorted to lethal violence, they overwhelmingly killed relatives or suitors. When women killed another person they were 3.5 times more likely than men to kill a spouse, 3.8 times more likely to kill a relative (non-spouse), and 1.8 times more likely to kill a lover. Seventy-seven percent of the homicides committed by women occurred in the home, compared with 27.6 percent of those committed by men. Most of the killings by women were apparently premeditated. Women typically bought or borrowed weapons, made post-murder arrangements, and prepared alibis. Husbands constituted the largest category of victims for homicidal Chicago women, and spousal victims accounted for much of the increase in homicides by women during the period studied. The women who committed spousal homicide were disproportionately African-American. Children accounted for the second largest category of victims, even when infanticides were excluded from the category. More than one woman killer in five murdered her children. This paper details the characteristics of both women who killed their husbands and those who killed their children. Overall, this paper attributes the increase in female violence in Chicago during the study period to a loosening of the gender roles for two groups of women: White women who resisted abusive husbands and African-American women who responded to racism and violence in ways similar to African-American men. In neither case, however, was this loosening of gender roles an indicator of a rapid shift toward social or gender equality. 143 footnotes
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Battered wives; Female murderers; Homicide trends; Illinois; Male female offender comparisons; Race-crime relationships; Victim profiles
Note: For other documents related to this study, see NCJ-200171-200180 and 200182.
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