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Burmah White in jail
Alternative Title
Los Angeles Herald Examiner Photo Collection
Date Created and/or Issued
Contributing Institution
Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
Rights Information
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Photograph was edited for publication purposes.
In August of 1933, 19-year-old Burmah White, a hairdresser and former Santa Ana High School student, and her husband of less than one week, twenty-eight year old Thomas White, an ex-con, spent their honeymoon on a crime spree. The couple perpetrated ten stick-ups, seven in a single evening; but the worst of their crimes was the shooting of a popular elementary school teacher, Cora Withington, and a former publisher, Crombie Allen, who was teaching her how to drive his new car. They were stopped at a light when a car driven by a young blonde woman pulled up alongside them, and a man brandishing a gun jumped out of the vehicle. The bandit pointed his weapon at Withington's head and said, "Shell out, sweetheart..." Just as Withington and Allen were handing over their valuables there was a gunshot - and it tore through Miss Withington's left eye, came out near the right eye and ripped a hole in Allen's neck. Despite his injury, Allen memorized the license plate number of the bandit's car. Both victims survived their wounds, but Allen was permanently blinded. White's lack of remorse and abrasive demeanor were great fodder for the press, but earned the young widow a guilty conviction on eleven felony counts, and she was sentenced to a term of from 30 years to life. She began serving her time at San Quentin, but was ultimately transferred to the Women's Prison at Tehachapi where, in 1935, Aggie Underwood interviewed her and a few of the other inmates for a multi-part series on women in prison. Underwood noted that her attitude had completely changed and White even wrote an open letter to young women entitled "Crime Never Pays." White was denied parole a few times before she was discharged on December 1, 1941. She'd served less than eight years for her part in the 1933 crime spree. Upon her release, White vanished from public view.
First photograph caption dated November 3, 1933 reads, "Behind the bars of the county jail and facing a possible sentence of nine years to life imprisonment, Burmah White, convicted aide of the slain 'rattlesnake' bandit, today had learned that 'crime never pays.' After being found guilty last night, she sat in her cell and penciled out a statement of the lesson she had learned."
1 photographic print :b&w ;26 x 21 cm.
Photographic prints
Herald Examiner Collection
HE box 4818
Los Angeles City Jail (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Female offenders--California--Los Angeles
Widows--California--Los Angeles
Jails--California--Lincoln Heights (Los Angeles)
Women--California--Los Angeles
Lincoln Heights (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express photographs
Herald-Examiner Collection photographs

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