Lady Killers, Female Serial Killers

I spent time with Lady Killers this past weekend at Bucket o Blood Books and Records. The book was inspired by author Tori Telfer’s column “Lady Killers” that she wrote for Jezebel. I learned about her talk on a Facebook group. Don’t ask me why I’m still on Facebook. I don’t know why I’m still on Facebook. Trust me, it’s not a fun place, but sometimes it has its redeeming qualities – like introducing me to Tori Telfer (did I mention she’s from Chicago too? There are so many kickass Chicago writers as of late living in Chicago and I’m loving this).

The book Lady Killers: Lady Killers Throughout History explores 15 female serial killers from about the 1800’s up to 1950. She said she stopped there for a number of reasons, but a major takeaway she wanted us to leave the event with is that Aileen Wuornos was not the first female serial killer, as often cited. And, there are a lot of female serial killers, even during the time period she wrote, that did not make it into the book. Finally, there may be female serial killers operating today.

Now that my husband can no longer go with me everywhere (because children) I’m starting to get used to going places alone. Don’t think I’m weird because I’m saying that. My husband and I have been together for almost 20 years and he really is my best friend and usually the only other weird person in the room with me so I don’t have to be too self-conscious. But, this was a talk about lady serial killers and I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of people there to hear the author speak. There were so many people that it was a sold out event. This people is how badly people want to learn about female serial killers.

According to Telfer, female serial killers have historically been tied to their state of being a woman. For example, her sexuality and the stereotype of the black widow. Or, her looks may be highlighted, typically in an unflattering light. But female serial killers, according to Telfer are as multifaceted as Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacey. They are complicated and hard to understand.

Here are a few things I found interesting during Telfer’s talk about female serial killers.

  1. Yes, it seems as though most of them preferred poison. About 85%.
  2. These women were hustlers. Many worked many jobs. They were sneaky. They were conniving, all in the effort to get ahead in life. They were driven and tried to climb up the social ladder.
  3. They were desperate. A lot of them were desperate. It was as if they felt ground down in certain corners of society. For example, maybe they felt limited because of their husbands, children, mothers, etc. Many felt trapped in their conditions.

The book provides some in-depth research into 15 female serial killers, including Erzsébet Báthory and Mary Ann Cotton.

I haven’t read the book yet, but am excited to.

-CP