They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Following this principle, we can also assume that behind every evil man is an evil woman. Then there are those women who chose the evil path all by themselves. Whether they were the Bonnie to their respective Clyde or the independent, loner type, there were some women throughout history who were capable of doing some pretty despicable things. Here then are ten women who interpreted “girl power” the wrong way:
The Bloody Mary: Queen Mary I (1516-1558)
Though she reigned for a brief period, Queen Mary definitely left a mark on the world. Mary, the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was a devout and committed Roman Catholic yet her attempts to restore Catholicism was anything but Christian-like.
Mary supported harsher and harsher persecution of Protestants, eventually burning more than 300 at the stake as heretics over a four year period, thus earning her the nickname, “Bloody Mary.” Mary died at age 42 at St. James’s Palace on November 17, 1558.
The Cruel Queen: Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)
Forget about Cate Blanchett’s excellent portrayal. Queen Elizabeth was as cruel as any ruler could get. If Queen Mary brought England back to Roman Catholicism, Elizabeth suppressed it in the cruelest way possible. She had thousands of Catholics in Ireland and England murdered.
She was also heavily involved in slave trading movement as she sponsored slavers to capture Africans. She also gave Queen Mary of Scots refuge but she betrayed her and kept her prisoner for 19 years before finally killing her.
The Socialite from Hell: Delphine Lalaurie (1775-1842)
LaLaurie was a socialite in New Orleans. She was pretty popular among the higher social classes until April 10, 1834 when a fire broke out in her mansion’s kitchen during a party. Firefighters entered the house through the courtyard and found two slaves chained to the stove.
It appeared that the slaves started the fire to get attention. They led the firefighters to the attic where the real horrors were. More than a dozen maimed and disfigured slaved were manacled to the floor or walls.
Many of them were subjects of vicious medical experiments. Some of the slaves they found include a woman with limbs removed and flesh sliced off to look like a caterpillar, another woman with her limbs broken and reset to resemble a crab, and a man who appeared to have undergone a forced sex change.
Some of them had their mouths sewn shut while others had their limbs sewn to other parts of their bodies. Some of them were still alive when found. Before LaLaurie could be brought to justice, she fled and was never caught.
The Bloody Lady of Cachtice: Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614)
Though she was born an Hungarian countess, Elzabeth Bathory was also labelled the most prolific female serial killer in history due to accusations of her torturing and murdering dozens of young girls. While the idea that she bathed in her victims’ blood is folklore, the accounts of mutilation and impalement are true. In 1610, King Matthias sent men to her castle to investigate after hearing rumors of cruelty. The men found one dead girl and one dying. There was also another woman who was severely injured and some other women locked up. Bathory’s initial victims were peasant girls who were attracted to her offers of well-paid job as maidservants in the castle. Soon, she began killing daughters of lower gentry, who were sent by their parents to learn etiquette.
Some of the victims were abducted. Bathory supposedly beat her victims to death; mutilated or burned their hands, faces and genitalia; bit flesh out of their faces and other body parts; and starved them to death. The total number of her victims is unknown but has always been thought to be in the hundreds.
The Poison Mistress: Mary Anne Cotton (1832-1873)
Talk about a real “motha”, English mom, Mary Anne Cotton was said to have murdered up to 20 people by arsenic poisoning. At the age of 20, Cotton married William Mowbray, moved to Plymouth and had five children. Four of these children died from stomach pains or gastric fever. The couple moved back to the Northeast where she had another three children. All of them died. Mowbray died of an intestinal disorder, too, in January 1865. Cotton married her second husband, George Ward, who also died of intestinal problems. Two of her remaining children followed. After yet another child perished, the local newspapers became interested with the case and discovered something horrible. As she moved around northern England, Cotton lost three husbands, her mother, a lover, a friend and a dozen children, all of whom died of stomach or intestinal problems. She killed them all. On March 24, 1873, Cotton was hanged at Durham County Gaol.
The Black Widow: Belle Gunness (1859-1931)
Belle Gunness was one of America’s most degenerate and productive female serial killers. Standing 6 ft (1.83 m) tall and weighing in at over 200 lbs (91 kg), she was an imposing and powerful woman of Norwegian descent. It is likely that she killed both her husbands and all of her children at different times, but it is certain that she murdered most of her suitors, boyfriends, and her two daughters, Myrtle and Lucy.
The motive was greed-pure and simple; life insurance policies and assets stolen or swindled from her suitors became her source of income. Most reports put her death toll at more than twenty victims over several decades, with some claiming in excess of one hundred.
Though it was believed she was killed by a jealous lover, her body has never been found.
The Bitch of Belsen: Irma Grese (1923-1945)
One of the most notorious women during the Nazi period, Irma Grese was called “the Bitch of Belsen” (and for good reason). On April 17, 1945, after she was captured by the British, the accusations against her ranged from simple maltreatment to heinous murder of prisoners at the camps. Survivors claimed that she would set dog at inmates, sadistically beat them with a whip and arbitrarily shoot them.
They also provided details of her tortures and sexual excesses engaged in by her and testified to her act of selecting prisoners for the gas chambers. Grese was reported to have habitually worn heavy boots and carried a whip and a pistol.
Witnesses testified that she used both physical and emotional methods to torture the camp’s inmates and enjoyed shooting prisoners in cold blood. On December 13, 1945, Grese died by hanging. She was all of twenty-two years of age.
The Dragon Lady: Jiang Qing (1914-1991)
Some women are born with the lust to torture and kill people. Others marry men who have the lust AND the power. Jiang Qing was just such a woman. The last wife of major Chinese Communist Party power figure Mao Zedong, Qing was believed to be the driving force behind the Cultural Revolution of China.
It was during this 10-year period that much economic activity was stopped and numerous antiques, artifacts, buildings, books and paintings were destroyed. The revolution also halted the country’s education system. Many intellectuals and professionals were sent to prison camps while many other Chinese had their human rights violated and annulled.
Many Eastern and Western sources estimate the death toll to be around 500,000 from 1966-1969 alone. However, some believe that the deaths reached as high as three million plus 36 million others persecuted. In 1976 Qing was arrested and eventually sentenced to death.
In 1983 however, her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She was released from prison in1991 due to throat cancer and on May 14, 1991, at age 77, Qing died by hanging herself in a bathroom of her hospital where she was being treated.
The Witch of Buchenwald: Ilse Koch (1906-1967)
Ilse, wife of Karl Koch, commandant of the concentration camps Buchenwald from 1937 to 1941, and Majdanek from 1941 to 1943, became drunk on the absolute power rendered by her husband.
Infamous for her torture of prisoners as well as her souvenirs–shrunken heads and tattooed skin taken from murdered inmates that were later turned into lampshades, her reputation for debauchery was well earned.
After building an indoor sports arena in 1940, with 250,000 marks stolen from inmates, Ilsa was promoted to Oberaufseherin or “chief overseer” of the few female guards at Buchenwald. On September 1, 1967, Koch committed suicide by hanging herself at Aichach women’s prison.
Nurse of Death: Jane Toppan (1854 – 1938)
Nurse Jane Toppan was a heavyset, disturbed woman who preyed on the ill and infirm. The daughter of an insane father, Jane was raised in rough and tumble Boston orphanages after he gave up on caring for her. As she grew to adulthood, Toppan studied nursing where professors noted her unhealthy fascination with autopsy photographs. Nonetheless, she graduated and began to care for patients, who found her pleasant and nicknamed her “Jolly Jane”. Ultimately however, Toppan found intense sexual pleasure could be derived from drugging patients and bringing them to the brink of death.
She would attempt to bring them close to death, revive them, and then poison them again. Often, she got into their hospital beds with them, most likely to molest them sexually as they clung to life, barely conscious. Classified as a lust killer, Toppan began her reign of cruel experiments and killings in 1885, and they went on until she was eventually apprehended and convicted of eleven killings. While in custody, she revealed that she had caused the deaths of thirty-one people. Toppan gloried in her crimes, wanting to go down in history as the person who “killed more people — helpless people — than any other man or woman who ever lived.” “Jolly Jane” was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and lived out her post-conviction life in Taunton Insane Asylum.