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Wretched Sisters

Examining Gender and Capital Punishmend


Mary Welek Atwell

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, fourteen women have been put to death in the United States. The criminal justice system defines crimes committed by women in a particularly gendered context. Wretched Sisters is unique in its analysis of the legal and cultural circumstances that determine why a small number of women are sentenced to death and provides a detailed account of how these fourteen women came to be subjected to the ultimate punishment.
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This book has been both a labor of love and labor of pain. At times the sadness of the lives and deaths of the wretched sisters and the failures of the system were almost overwhelming. But I hope I repressed the anger and sadness to tell their stories in an honest and respectful way.

I have been extremely fortunate to work with some wonderful graduate students who helped with research, read drafts of the manuscript, and discussed the death penalty at great length. I am especially grateful to Mindy Griffith, Donna Hale, Bakir Poljac, Brandi Sanders Mullins, and Katherine Miller.

My daughter, Polly Atwell, is, as always my confidant and most valuable intellectual colleague.

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