After some thought, I decided to do a series of October posts regarding serial killers and mass murderers. But, I cover male serial killers and mass murderers nearly every October. This year, I decided to cover female serial killers and mass murderers. I immediately realized there would be difficulties, but not what you’re thinking. I quickly found more than 31 female serial killers and mass murderers. As a matter of fact, in the space of an hour, I had more than 150 to choose from.
When a man decides to commit mass murder, they grab some guns, and head to somewhere local with lots of people. Of the more than 70 female mass murderers I found, only 3 did something like that. The majority, killed their family, specifically their children. In some ways, this is because woman often blame their families for their problems and partly, because of the societal pressures of being a woman. This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does explain it to some degree. However, therein, lies one of my problems…. How recent am I willing to get?
Honestly, not very recent. Not because I think modern killers should be ignored, but because no one needs me rubbing salt in those wounds with a blog post and I’ve already found a few of my readers have personal experience with both serial and mass murder.
Now, society reacts much stronger to a woman that kills her children than when a man does it. If you want to get into the ins and outs of that, pick up practically any sociology textbook. I asked my Facebook group for an arbitrary cut off date for “too recent.” I gave some options and got some answers and some suggestions. Most were comfortable with about 20 years (making the cutoff date roughly 2000). After some more thought, I realized I wasn’t sure I felt that was long enough. So, I randomly decided 30 years would be my “most recent.” Because of this, some names you might expect didn’t make it.
I also decided to put two other requirements for my list of names. The first, they couldn’t have a male partner. This immediately excluded several of the most famous female serial killers ever (Karla Homolka, Myra Hindley, Rosemary West, and Martha Beck). The second condition was even more random than excluding working with men and “too recent”. The definition of a serial killer is someone that kills at least three people in separate events over a space of time. The FBI defines a mass murderer as someone who kills at least three victims in a single event. It was my decision to make the minimum number of victims must be four or more, not three.
It should be noted, that women are every bit as brutal as men when they kill. There will be blood and violence. Not every female killer decides to use poison and frankly, I think poisoning your victims is incredibly monstrous for reasons I’ll get into as we move into the posts. Furthermore, you’re going to hear a lot about mental illness, far more than with male serial killers and there are two specific mental illnesses that seem to run rampant in female serial killers: Severe Depression (probably postpartum in a lot of cases) and Munchausen by Proxy. I didn’t do a count of how often I saw it in the files, but I remember at least 7 cases of Munchausen by Proxy just from compiling the list.
Having said that, not every woman who suffers depression is killing people. The majority aren’t. I feel it would be more accurate to state that most of those that did kill were suffering from depression and psychosis (most likely undiagnosed Psychopathology). And remember postpartum psychosis wasn’t a disease until very recently. On the flip side, accidentally killing someone is always a huge risk when a person has Munchausen by Proxy.
There are maybe five cases on this list that will probably make you scratch your head. They are Black Widow cases. For instance, one of them, was convicted of murdering her fifth husband. She had in fact, outlived all five of her husbands and two of her children. While all of the deaths were considered natural, they probably weren’t. At least one of her children died as an adult after suffering from a long, unknown illness that could never be identified and didn’t respond to any treatments. He was cremated, so they couldn’t prove she killed him, but it was suspected… Hindsight’s 20/20.
Finally, most of my cases are in the US, because they are easy to find. However, I did do my homework and go worldwide to include killers from all predominantly English speaking countries (I didn’t want to have to deal with translations of source material). Also, I wasn’t real restrictive of eras. I included baby farmers from the late 1800s and early 1900s, as well as cases from the 1980s.