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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Torture
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 2, 1903
Date of birth: 1872
Victim profile: Annie Williams, 7 (a orphan in her charge)
Method of murder: Beating with a red-hot poker
Location: Oklahoma, USA
Status: Executed by hanging at McAlester on July 17, 1903

Dora Wright - July 17, 1903

Dora was hanged in a public execution in Oklahoma, for the murder and mutilation of her (assumed) step daughter. A local paper called the crime "the most horrible and outrageous" ever committed in that area. The paper described Wright as a "Demon" and a "Fiend".


Dora Wright – USA

July 17th

Seven-year-old Annie Williams’ life was short and agonising. For months she was cruelly beaten by her guardian, Dora Wright, 31, and among the other tortures she had to endure was branding with a red-hot poker. Finally she was whipped so severely that she died.

On May 30th, 1903, an Oklahoma jury took 20 minutes to find Dora Wright guilty of the child’s murder but declined to recommend life imprisonment. Thus the “negress” as the press called her – she was actually of American Indian origin – was sentenced to die.

She was hanged on Friday, July 17th, 1903, alongside a white man, Charles Barrett, also convicted of murder. The double execution was carried out in public in a “carnival atmosphere” but, according to press reports, Wright “mounted the scaffold without a tremor.”


A woman hanged

First Woman Ever Hanged in the Territories

The Blackwell Sun
Blackwell, Oklahoma July 23, 1903

South McAlester, I. T., July 18

Dora Wright was hanged here yesterday for the murder of Annie Williams, a 7 year-old girl. She mounted the scaffold without a tremor.

Dora Wright, the first woman ever hung in this section, was convicted of whipping a 7 year-old white girl, Annie Williams until she died of her injuries. The evidence showed that the little girl had been beaten severely for many months, as there were old scars on her. Some of these indicated that the child had been tortured with a red-hot poker.

Charles Barrett was hanged at the same time for the murder of John Hennessy, an aged man whom he shot from ambush. Robbery was the motive.



Dora Wright

July 17, 1903. Thirty eight year old Dora Wright (black) became the first woman to be hanged in the 20th century when she was put to death at South McAllister, Oklahoma for the murder of 7 year old Annie Williams. With her on the gallows was Charles Barrett who was executed for a separate murder.

Dora had beaten Annie over a period of several months before finally whipping her to death on February 2nd 1903. Just before 7 a.m. both prisoners were given a drop of 7 feet and died without a struggle.



1903: Dora Wright, in Indian Territory

On July 17, 1903, Dora Wright was hanged at McAlester in Indian Territory — the present-day U.S. state of Oklahoma.

Wright beat and tortured to death a 7-year-old orphan in her charge named Annie Williams. Wright tormented the little girl over several months until she finally succumbed to a thrashing in February 1903. It was, the local paper said, “the most horrible and outrageous” crime in memory in the area; Wright’s jury only needed 20 minutes’ deliberation to condemn her.

As Oklahoma was yet four years shy of statehood, “Indian Territory” jurisdiction — and with it any decision on executive clemency — fell to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. The inclination of the Rough Rider is aptly conveyed by the words of Attorney General Philander Knox‘s brief on the case to the President, which were released for press consumption:

The real facts in this case are that this woman tortured to death a little child seven years old, her niece, whom she was pretending to care for and support. She whipped the child most unmercifully with large switches, struck it about the hand and face so as to cause wounds sufficient to produce death, burned holes in its legs and thighs with a heated poker, and committed other nameless atrocities upon the person of the child. The testimony shows that the woman pursued a course of cruelty which was fiendish and barbarous … The only ground upon which her pardon is sought is that she is a woman, and that the infliction of the death penalty upon a woman would be a shock to the moral sense of the people in the community.

T.R. was incredulous at the feminine special pleading.

“If that woman was mean enough to do a thing like that,” Roosevelt said, “she ought to have the nerve to meet her punishment.”

Wright did have that nerve in the end, and was noted for the calm with which she comported herself on the scaffold. (She was hanged alongside another fellow, Charles Barrett, who shot a man dead in a robbery.)



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