Dora Wright

Dora Wright and Joshua Harvey lived in Wilburton, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, with Annie Williams, a seven-year old child. Reports varied as to whether Wright and Harvey were married and as to whether Williams was their child, a step-child, or a foster child.

McAlester Daily News, February 5, 1903

Whatever the case, in the weeks before her death in February 1903, authorities became aware that Williams was being abused. Whatever efforts were made to stop that abuse were unsuccessful. Then, on February 3, Wright notified authorities that Williams was dead.

When authorities went to the home, they found evidence of horrific abuse. Though Wright acknowledged beating Williams, she claimed that her death resulted from a rape committed by a white man.

At trial in federal court, Dora Wright was convicted of murder on May 30, 1903, and sentenced to death on June 4. Charges against Harvey were not pursued.

Along with Charles Barrett, Wright’s was the first federal death sentence imposed in the newly constituted court.

In a fast-moving case, Dora Wright was hanged on July 17, 1903.

Dora Wright was the first woman ever executed by the United States government.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

One thought on “Dora Wright”

  1. Holdenville Democrat Apr 7, 1927 The arresting officer Thomas Whaley arrested Charley Barrett of Calvin, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory for the murder of John Hennesy employed on the Choctaw, Coal Railway when he found Uncle Johnny washing his clothes down on the Canadian River south of the railroad encampment. Whaley got wind of Charley Barrett (coming into a great sum of money to buy cattle) and followed up on that clue. Ends up with Barrett finally confessing just before he hung beside your Dora Wright at McAlester’s new prison. source I research for our Hughes County Museum, Holdenville, Oklahoma.


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