Gall, Gallantry, and the Gallows: Capital Punishment and the Social Construction of Gender, 1840-1920

By Gender and Society / Alana van Gundy-Yoder, on 1 January 2008

In this article, the authors examine how the debate over women’s executions during the nineteenth and early twentieth century funneled and in various ways processed the contrary demands of gender and capital justice. They show how encounters with capital punishment both reflected and reinforced dominant interpretations of womanhood and as such contributed to the intricate web of normative strictures that affected all women at the time. At the same time, however, the often heated debates that accompanied such cases pried open some of the contradictions inherent in the dominant interpretations and, as a result, came to challenge the boundaries that separated not only women from men but also women from each other. Rather than viewing gender as a unidirectional influence on capital punishment, the authors argue that gender is best approached as an evolving social category that gets reconstructed, modified, and transformed whenever it is implicated in social practices and public debates.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Women,