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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.; Photograph attributed to Crory.
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 September 11, 1933 reads, "Burmah Adams White, 19-year-old widow of Thomas N. White, 'rattlesnake bandit,' slain by police, was to be taken before the grand jury today, as the law acted to tighten its grip on her. Meanwhile, investigators study the personality of the alleged 'moll,' who sometimes is coldly defiant and sometimes shaken, and who wrote the note at the top, saying, 'I am gambling for high stakes; either I win in a big way or lose in an equally large way.' Officers regard the handwriting, bold with flourishes and careful punctuation, as an index to Mrs. White's character."; Second photograph caption dated March 8, 1934 reads, "Here is Burmah White, widow of the 'rattlesnake bandit,' one of the Los Angeles prisoners recently sent to the 'ranch.' She will aid in planting a spring garden soon."
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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