When the subject of murderers and serial killers comes up, it’s usually men who are mentioned- Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer – but few people can mention more than one or two notorious female killers.
Some killed for love, some for money, but most were just absolutely insane and sadistic. Interestingly, a few have either been set free or will be soon. In the interest of equality, here’s a list of 25 Infamous Female Murderers Throughout History.
Lady Elizabeth Bathory
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Bathing in the blood of virgins”? Elizabeth Bathory is where we get that phrase. It is estimated she killed as many as 650 servant and local young women before she was caught, and she had a special torture chamber built for her by her husband.
Belle was an immigrant from Norway to the US who killed her husbands for insurance payouts before starting to lure single wealthy men to her farm. When the farm burned in 1908, more than 40 bodies were found in shallow graves.
Overbye ran an orphanage in the late 1920’s. She’d take in newborns from desperate mothers for a one time fee, promising they’d be placed in loving homes. Instead, she killed them and cremated the bodies in her stove. She confessed to killing between sixty and eighty children, but estimates are as high as 180.
Mary Ann Cotton
Mary Ann Cotton was a serial killer in Victorian England. She is suspected of killing up to 21 people with arsenic, but she was only convicted of killing her stepson which led to her hanging in 1873.
Dyer was known as the Baby Farmer and is suspected of killing over 200 infants in Victorian England. Again, she’d take babies in from desperate mothers for a fee with a promise to have them adopted, and then murder the children. When she was apprehended by police, Dyer told them, “You’ll know all mine by the tape around their necks.” She was hung for her crimes in 1869.
Ilse joined the Nazi party in Germany in 1932, and she earned the reputation of “Bitch of Buchenwald” at the concentration camp she oversaw with her husband, Karl Otto Kotch. Ilse liked to make household objects out of the skin of prisoners she tortured and had a particular affinity for making skin with tattoos into lampshades. She committed suicide in prison in 1967.
Delfina and Maria de Jesus Gonzales
These ladies ran a prostitution ring in centeral Mexico in the 1950’s and 60’s, largely staffed with girls they’d kidnapped. When the girls would become to ill or ugly from being force fed drugs, the sisters would kill them. The sisters also killed several clients and infants. Delfina died while serving out the sentence for her crimes, and Maria disappeared after her release.
Christiana Edmunds, born in 1828 in England, had a weird hobby. She would buy chocolates from a shop, poison them with strychnine, and then return them to the shop. Other people would buy them and become ill. In 1871, a 4 year old boy died from eating one of the chocolates she had poisoned. She died in a psychiatric hospital in 1907.
Toppoan was a nurse in New England who injected her patients with morphine until they died. She claimed her goal in life was to, “have killed more people – helpless people – than any other man or woman who ever lived,” and confessed to killing over 100.
Rosemary is currently serving out a life sentence in Durham, England, for her part in torturing and killing at least ten women, along with her husband Fred West, in the 1970’s and 80’s. One of the last murders the two committed was their 16 year old daughter, Heather in 1987.
Cathy Wood and Gwendolyn Graham
Cathy and Gwendolyn met and fell in love in 1986 while working at Alpine Manor, an assisted living facility for seniors in Michigan. While two people meeting and falling in love is generally a nice story, Wood and Graham’s kind of goes off the rails when they started smothering residents in their beds after promising to love each other for “Forever and Five Days.” The two killed five patients before Graham fell in love with someone else and moved.
Ottilie "Tillie" Klimek
Ottilie “Tillie” Klimek was a serial killer who lived in Chicago and would cheerfully tell her husbands or neighbors they were going to die soon, before she, you know, killed them. Her first husband died of “heart trouble” in 1914, and it took until her third husband and a few neighbors later in 1921 for the police to suspect something was amiss.
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Before Juana Barraza was a killer, she was a masked Mexican wrestler known as “The Lady Of Silence.” When her wrestling career was no longer making ends meet, Barraza started posing as a nurse to enter the homes of elderly persons and rob them. On one such occasion, the old lady made fun of Barraza, and so her killing spree began. She was tried for 30 murders, though she may have been responsible for as many as 48..
Beverly allitt started working as a nurse at a hospital in Lincolnshire, UK, in 1990. Between winter and spring of 1991, four children would mysteriously die after being left alone with nurse Allitt. Allitt pleaded mental illness at her trial, and as such is currently living in a secure mental hospital.
Genene Anne Jones
Jones was a pediatric nurse from Texas who would inject the children under her care with various drugs so she could have a chance to show off her nursing skills when they had to be saved. She was convinced in the deaths of two infants but may have killed as many as sixty. Jones was sentenced to 99 years in 1985 but will be released in 2018 due to new Texas laws about prison overcrowding.
Vera Renczi of Romania killed every man she ever loved. And she loved over 30 men. A very jealous woman, once Vera had had enough of a husband’s or lover’s unfaithfulness – usually in the form of them “abandoning” her to go to work during the day – she simply dosed them with arsenic.
In 1930’s and 1940’s, Leonarda Cianciulli killed three women and made them into soap or teacakes as human sacrifices to protect her children. When she was caught and convinced, she showed little remorse for her crimes and even corrected the prosecution on some of the more grisly details.
In 1965, Baniszewski led her own children and other children in her Indianapolis neighborhood in the brutal, prolonged torture and eventual killing of a 16 year old girl, Sylvia Linkens. Gertrude was released on parole in 1985. She claimed that the Lord had forgiven her and she had found peace. She died of lung cancer five years later.
Karla Homolka and her husband Paul Bernardo kidnapped, raped, and killed three women in the early 1990’s. Their first victim was Karla’s youngest sister, 15 year old Tammy Holmoka. Karla was offered a plea deal for testifying against her now ex husband and as such was released from prison in 2005. She now goes by Karla Bordelais and lives in the Caribbean with her husband and three young children.
Myra Hindley and her partner Ian Brady abducted, tortured, and killed five children and then buried them in Saddleworth Moore in the UK in the 1960’s. Before her death in 2002, she stated that she was more “culpable” than Ian because she “’knew the difference between right and wrong.” The bodies of some of her victims have never been found.
Martha Beck was the partner and lover of Raymond Fernandez, and the two together were known as the “lonely hearts killers.” They would lure women into a relationship with Fernandez via lonely hearts columns in the newspaper in the late 1940’s; then rob and kill them. They killed three women and the young daughter of one before they were caught, convicted, and executed. Beck was only 31 when she was executed via electric chair at Sing Sing prison in New York.
Aileen was a prostitute who killed seven men in Florida in the late 80’s through 1990. She would rob her patrons, shoot them, and then steal their cars. Aileen was the first woman to ever fit the FBI profile of a serial killer. She was executed via lethal injection in 2002. Just one year later, in 2003, the movie Monster based on Wuornos’ story was released.
Lizzie Brown Halliday
Halliday came to the United States with her parents when she was three years old, in 1867. She would kill several of her numerous husbands, sometimes her stepchildren, and friends from Ireland who had given her a place to stay before she was caught. Nicknamed “The Worst Woman On Earth,” once she was sentenced to a mental asylum, she managed to stab one of her nurses 200 times with a pair of scissors.
Hélène Jégado was an actual french maid, or house servant, in the early and mid 1800’s. She liked to poison her own family, her friends and their families, and her employers and their families. She even joined a convent briefly, but renounced her habit after several nuns suddenly died. Some sources speculated she started poisoning those around her as young as 8. It is not known how many people she killed, but it was suspected to be around 60. However, she was only tried for 3, and for those 3 she was found guilty and executed.
Was Mary Pearcy Jack The Ripper? Some have speculated that she was. While we’ll never know for sure, what we do know what is that she killed Mrs. Hogg and Phoebe Hogg, the wife and daughter of her lover. When police came to speak to Mary, she still had blood on her clothing and was wearing Mrs. Hogg’s wedding band. The murder of Mrs. Hogg and the Whitechapel murders had the same kind of murder wounds, a viciously cut throat, and the bodies were all displayed in public.
Curious about Jack the Ripper? Check out 25 Interesting Facts About Jack The Ripper You Might Not Be Aware Of.