Genevieve Forbes-Herrick gave her thoughts on Maurine Watkins’ new play “Chicago” in the October 16th, 1927, edition of the Chicago Tribune. Forbes-Herrick requested that the management reserve a block of seats for a few local women who “tarried on the fourth floor of the building at Dearborn Street and Austin Avenue long enough to get themselves into a play”. In Forbes-Herrick’s opinion, Beulah Annan should have been given an aisle seat for her incredible beauty, inspiring the character named Roxie. The next best seat should have gone to the incredibly stylish Belva Gaertner to witness the characterization of Velma. Moonshine Maggie’s inspiration, Sabella Nitti, deserved a fine seat to watch the play after all of the trouble she had gone through to inspire it. After becoming the first woman in Cook County to receive the death sentence, “she tarried in jail long enough to learn the value of a hot bath, a manicure, and a smart hair-do… She walked from jail a more modish, if not a better, woman”. In the early 1920s, at the corner of Dearborn Street and Austin Avenue, three accused murderers named Beulah Annan, Belva Gaertner, and Sabella Nitti awaited trial on the fourth floor of the Cook County Jail, otherwise known by the public as “Murderess Row”. The three had vastly different cases, differently handled trials, and ultimately the same verdict: not guilty.
Copyright © Rachel Goldsmith
Goldsmith, Rachel, "Murderess Row: Selling Morals to 1920s America" (2023). Schultz-Werth Award Papers. 47.