We’ve all heard about the lives of evil men from throughout history who have led countries to war and committed atrocious acts of violence. However, it’s much rarer that we hear about the women who have performed equally, if not more, horrific crimes against humanity. Take a look below for our list of 10 of the most evil women in history.
1. Queen Mary I
Queen Mary I, AKA ‘Bloody Mary’, was the only child of Henry VIII to live past infancy, and she went on to become one of the worst queens of the monarchy. Mary was single handedly responsible for the death of over 300 Protestants when she was determined to turn England back to Catholicism. All those that didn’t change their religious views were next, so a further 800 Protestants left the country in order to avoid the gallows, unable to return until her death in 1558.
2. Gertrude Baniszewski
When a couple employed Gertrude Baniszewski to take care of their two children, Sylvia and Jenny Likens, while they travelled the state for work, they could never imagined what she would do to them. Baniszewski cruelly tortured the two girls as she locked them in the basement and forced them do horrific things to each other and themselves. This included forcing them to commit sex acts with coke bottles and tattooing “I am a prostitute and proud of it” on their stomachs. She even enlisted the help of her own children and their friends to scald, burn, humiliate and starve the girls (Sylvia died from the punishment), before being arrested and imprisoned for her sick crimes.
3. Myra Hindley
Between 1962 and 1968, Myra Hindley and her boyfriend Ian Brady were responsible for the ‘Moor Murders’. The pair kidnapped, sexually abused, tortured and murdered three children under the age of 12 and two teenagers. Hindley’s 17-year-old brother-in-law tipped her off to the police. A key found in her possession led to incriminating evidence stored at a left-luggage depot at Manchester Central Station, including a video involving one of their victims. Hindley pleaded not guilty to all of the murders but was found guilty and imprisoned for life. She was never released, and died in prison in 2002.
4. Beverly Allitt
Dubbed ‘The Angel of Death’, Beverley Gail Allit is one of Britain’s most well-known serial killers. As a paediatric nurse, she was responsible for killing four children, injuring five more and attacking another four who were in her care. Remarkably, the deaths took place within the space of less than two months before she was caught red handed. Insulin or potassium were used to precipitate cardiac arrest, but she also resorted to smothering when she couldn’t get the injections.
5. Mary Ann Cotton
Married at age twenty, Mary Cotton settled in Plymouth, Devon. The newlyweds had five children, four of whom later died of gastric fever and stomach pains. Mary moved back North, but tragedy seemed to follow Mary as her next three children died from intestinal disorder – before her husband died shortly after of the same illness. Her second husband also passed, along with one of his two children. It was soon discovered that Mary was moving around the country leaving a trail of bodies behind her; three husbands, a lover, a friend, her mother and a dozen children. She was hung in 1873 for murder by arsenic.
6. Ilse Koch
‘Buchenwälder Schlampe’ – the Bitch of Buchenwald – was the wife of Karl Koch. Koch was the commandant of two concentration camps during WWII. Ilse reached the level of ‘Chief Overseer’ of the few female Nazi guards at the camp and became drunk on the absolute power it rendered her. She revelled in torture and obscenity, specifically choosing tattooed inmates to be killed so that she could cut the tattoos from their skins and keep them as souvenirs. In 1951, she was convicted of her crimes during the war and sentenced to life in prison, but hanged herself in her cell years later.
7. Katherine Knight
Katherine Knight put Australia on the map for all the wrong reasons. Knight had a history of violent relationships in which she was the culprit, including a case where she slit the throat of an ex-husband’s eight week old puppy right in front of him. In 2000, following altercations with her fourth husband, she used a butcher’s knife to stab him 37 times in his front and back. She then skinned him and cut off his head and bottom to put into a pot to cook. She prepared vegetables and gravy as side dishes before serving it.
8. Irma Grese
Irma Grese was nicknamed the ‘Bitch of Belsen’. She thrived as a guard at Auschwitz, striking out at prisoners left, right and centre. Grese would often set her trained, starving dogs on victims, beat them, sexually abuse them and shoot them. She was also given the task of selecting prisoners for the gas chambers. Undoubtedly she was one of the harshest, most awful of all the Nazis, regardless of gender. Millions of victims saw justice served when Grese was hanged for her crimes after the war.
9. Belle Gunness
Standing 6ft tall and weighing over 200lbs, Belle Gunness was one powerful and domineering woman who decided on a weird vocation. Gunness decided what better way to earn money than claiming life insurance policies, earning around a quarter of a million dollars – an astonishing amount for the late 1800s. To build up this sort of wealth, she murdered both her husbands, all of her children, friends and most boyfriends and admirers. The number of victims tops 20, but rumours suggest that she could have killed as many as 100 people. Even more astounding is the fact that she was never caught or charged.
10. Elizabeth Bathory
One of the most infamous serial killers in Hungarian/Slovak history, it is not known how many children Countess Elizabeth Bathory murdered. In the late 1500s, rumours had circulated for years about missing peasant girls who were offered well paid work at the castle but never seen again. It wasn’t until King Mathias II took interest in the case and sent a party to search the castle that the true horror was discovered.
The men found one girl dead, another dying and several others wounded and locked up. Atrocities collected from testimony of witnesses included severe beatings, mutilation of body parts and Bathory biting the flesh off her victims. The body count is believed to have reached the hundreds, though she was never tried due to her status. She remained in house arrest in a single room until her death.