Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Christi Metcalfe

Second Advisor

John D. Burrow


Traditional gender norms prescribing women as more nurturing and less aggressive than men have led to both the reluctance to view women as capable of violence, as well as a greater willingness to execute men than women in the United States. To make sense of the instances where women are sentenced to death, the media often pathologizes and/or demonizes them. Scholars have found that demonizing and dehumanizing those executed is a necessity to the implementation of capital punishment, both in cases of male and female defendants. To better understand how the news media have framed the gender and racial narratives around women who have been sentenced to death, this study examined newspaper articles written about women sentenced to death in the United States from 1976 to 2020. Using both deductive and inductive coding methods, this study employed a qualitative content analysis to examine news articles about women sentenced to death in the United States since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976. The findings revealed the use of gender stereotypes, including four key subthemes: (1) victim as offender, (2) good woman pushed, (3) violating sexual norms, and (4) villainous. Newspapers perpetuated gendered expectations of women through implicit and explicit use of stereotypes and controlling images when describing women sentenced to death but were less likely to draw upon racial stereotypes. White women were also vilified more often than women of Color. The implications of these findings are discussed.


© 2022, Kelsey M. Collins