The Trunk Murderess (Season 2, Episode 1)

A short history podcast cover art

On this season of the podcast, we’ll be hopping back and forth in time between a series of crimes from the Victorian era to the 1930s. One era is known for its refinement and primness. Women, especially higher-class white women, often got away with murder. We’ll counter that with the 1930s, just after the first modern sexual/female revolution when flappers marked an enormous change in how women dressed, acted, worked and dated. How did female lib effect how women were treated by society and judged by a jury?

“One notorious murderess was sent to the electric chair in this state within recent memory, and it may be that juries have grown somewhat less lenient toward female offenders. It may be, also, that it is the police who have become emancipated, and do not hesitate to arrest women.”

-A study of New York state institutions, published by the New York Times in 1930.

Winnie Ruth Judd

Winnie Ruth Judd with bandaged hands

Winnie Ruth Judd and her bandaged hands, hurt the night of the murders.

Our first episode begins in 1931 with Winnie Ruth Judd. When Winnie attempted to exit a bustling L.A. train station after being stopped by a baggage inspector, she fled, abandoning several large trunks. Upon opening the trunks, the LAPD made a gruesome discovery. This week’s episode recounts the ghastly crime, and the media circus that followed the trial of Winnie Ruth Judd, or as she became known: “The Trunk Murderess.”


Trunk luggage

The infamous trunks

Handwritten letter.

Winnie’s handwritten confession letter to her attorney, only recently rediscovered.

After you listen to the episode, you can watch Winnie Ruth in a 1969 interview from jail here:

You can also find this episode on iTunes here (or search “A Short History” on your podcast app).

All photos in this post are from from the Arizona Historical Society. You can see even more photos in this blog post here.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11