Throughout history, some of the most notorious female criminals have come from all walks of life and time periods, united by their horrific acts, often fueled by trauma, mental illness, poverty, or violence around them.
To assemble a list of the most fiendish female criminals in history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed information from The Crime Museum, Biography, Newsweek, and other media sources. With one exception, only women who were convicted of or were pursued in connection with violent crimes are included here. (The exception, Maria Licciardi, was convicted of extortion and money laundering for Italy’s murderous Camorra.) Lizzie Borden, accused of murdering her father and stepmother in 19th-century Massachusetts, was not considered for this list because she was acquitted. (Borden’s residence, though, is considered one of America’s most infamous murder homes.)
Many preyed on the most vulnerable – children, the elderly, the sick, servants. Some like Amelia Dyer ran businesses entrusted with infant care but let many die for profit. Others like Belle Gunness and Dorothea Puente killed for insurance money or pension checks.
Poison was a common murder method for these women, though some like Enedina Arellano Felix and Mireya Moreno Carreon achieved leadership in male-dominated criminal enterprises through ruthlessness. Two women who contributed to history’s darkest hour, the Holocaust, were concentration camp overseers, and both met a violent fate. (These are horrifying images of Nazi death camps.)
Though from diverse times and places, these notorious women disrupted social order through their shocking criminal acts. Their complex stories reveal dark sides of humanity that defy gender stereotypes.
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