Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 1, 2015


Tender Murderers:  Women Who Kill by Trina Robbins (2003)

Women, the gentler sex?  Not quite.

Trina Robbins -- artist and cartoonist, historian and feminist -- explores the dark side of the double-X chromosome in this accessable history of twenty-one violent (and supposedly violent) women.  Among the twenty-one are some of my favorite misguided females:  Winnie Ruth Judd, Kate Bender, Belle Starr, and Valerie Solanis.  (I was sadly disillusioned by a nineteenth-century drawing of Kate Bender that Robbins included in the book.  Kate, reported to be a beautiful zofitg blonde, turns out to be a hard-looking woman whose stare could surdle milk.)  Missing from this distaff lineup, alas, is Pamela Smart, the New Hampshire high school teacher who enlivened newspapers in the Merrimac Valley when we lived there in the early 90s.

The Rogue-ess Gallery:

"They Did it For Love"

  • Beulah May Annan and Belva Gaertner (inspirations for the musical and the movie Chicago, among others)
  • Winnie Ruth Judd (the infamous trunk murderess)
  • Jean Harris (the Scarsborough Diet killer)
  • Aileen Wuornos (the hitchhiking serial killer)
"They Did It For Money"
  • Belle Gunness (the Black Widow of the Heartland)
  • Kate Bender (the daughter of the "Bloody Bender" family)
  • Ruth Snyder (inspiration for the book Double Indemnity and movie)
  • Dorothea Puente (taking a page from Arsenic and Old Lace, she poisoned nine elderly people for their Social Security checks)
"Bandit Queens and Gun Molls"
  • Belle Starr (bandit queen of the Old West)
  • Bonnie Parker (she robbed banks)
  • Lai Chooi San (pirate queen of Macao and the inspiration for the Dragon Lady of Terry and the Pirates)
  • Phoolan Devi (India's bandit queen)
"Fabled Femmes Fatales"
  • Charlotte Corday ("Poor old Marat..")
  • Frankie Silver (Appalachian legend and inspiration for Sharon McCrumb's The Ballad of Frankie Silver)
  • Grace Marks (Nineteenth Century Canadian maid and the inspiration for Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace)
  • Lizzie Borden (Did she take an axe and give her daddy forty whacks?)
"Shoots Like a Girl:  Women Who Missed" -- Or, The Also-Rans
  • Lolita Lebron (one of the four Puerto Rican nationalists who attempted to assassinate Harry Truman)
  • Valerie Solanas (author of The SCUM Manifesto and wanna-be Andy Warhol killer)
  • Squeaky Fromme (the Manson follower who tried to assassinate Gerald Ford with a gun with no bullett in the chamber)
  • Amy Fisher (the Long Island Lolita)
A fascinating compilation, breezily told.


  1. As an ex Londonderry resident, a few years older than Smart, that story caught my attention at the time as well. Idiots who think teachers taking on teen lovers is the height of cool need their noses rubbed in this.

  2. Meanwhile, the degree to which Trina Robbins helped launch comics fandom is, I suspect, under appreciated.