(Little Rock-AP) -- Christina Marie Riggs, set to die tomorrow for killing her children, will be the first woman in more than 150 years to be executed in Arkansas. The last time a woman was put to death in Arkansas was 1845. That's when Lavinia Burnett was hanged in Fayetteville for being an accessory to murder.
According to newspaper articles in 1845, Burnett and her husband Crawford were convicted of being accessories to the murder of Jonathan Selby. Their son, John Burnett, was convicted for Selby's death. The articles recounted court testimony that Selby was killed for his money.
Marlin Shipman, a journalism professor at Arkansas State University, says society and officials have often grappled with the execution of women. He said that there was lots of debate about whether women should have a special place and undergo some punishment other than death. But according to Shipman, that has diminished as the women's equality movement moved forward.
Shipman said part of society's ambivalence about executing women stemmed from the view of women as nurturing, gentle human beings. In his words, quote, "a mother is not expected to kill her children, she's expected to nurture them."
Shipman said that, when women break such a norm, there is sometimes less sympathy for them.