Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman


Cesare Lombroso is widely considered the founder of the field of criminology. His theory of the “born” criminal dominated discussions of criminology in Europe and the Americas from the 1880s into the early twentieth century. His book, La donna delinquente, originally published in Italian in 1893, was the first and most influential book ever written on women and crime. This comprehensive new translation gives readers a full view of his landmark work.

Lombroso’s research took him...

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Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman

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Cesare Lombroso is widely considered the founder of the field of criminology. His theory of the “born” criminal dominated discussions of criminology in Europe and the Americas from the 1880s into the early twentieth century. His book, La donna delinquente, originally published in Italian in 1893, was the first and most influential book ever written on women and crime. This comprehensive new translation gives readers a full view of his landmark work.

Lombroso’s research took him to police stations, prisons, and madhouses where he studied the tattoos, cranial capacities, and sexual behavior of criminals and prostitutes to establish a female criminal type. Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman anticipated today’s theories of genetic criminal behavior. Lombroso used Darwinian evolutionary science to argue that criminal women are far more cunning and dangerous than criminal men. Designed to make his original text accessible to students and scholars alike, this volume includes extensive notes, appendices, a glossary, and more than thirty of Lombroso’s own illustrations. Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson’s introduction, locating his theory in social context, offers a significant new interpretation of Lombroso’s place in criminology.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Cesare Lombroso created the field of criminology, but there has been a lack of available textbooks making his arguments accessible to today’s students of history, law, and sociology. This volume fills that void. Offering work previously not translated along with a scholarly introduction and new visual evidence, it reveals Lombroso’s argument without distorting the peculiar and genuinely contradictory character of his reasoning.”—Peter Becker, European University Institute

“Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman is a major publishing landmark in criminology. Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson have achieved a remarkable feat in translating this pivotal work and presenting it for scholars to study in a well-edited text. It gives new insights into positivism and the history of the subject. It will be required reading for anyone interested in developments in the field. It may even lead to new evaluations of Lombroso’s contribution, not least by feminist scholars.”—Frances Heidensohn, Goldsmiths College, University of London

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822332466
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 2/10/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,367,091
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909), an internationally famous physician and criminologist, wrote extensively about jurisprudence, psychiatry, human sexuality, and the causes of crime.

As a young law student, Guglielmo Ferrero (1871–1942) assisted Lombroso with research.

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Criminal woman, the prostitute, and the normal woman

By Cesare Lombroso

Duke University Press

ISBN: 0-8223-3246-9

Chapter One

The Female in the Animal World

At the present time, the moral sciences are interwoven or, rather, fused with the natural sciences. Thus it is impossible to undertake the study of the criminal woman without first analyzing the normal woman and also the female's place in the hierarchy of animal life.

In the earliest organisms, reproduction occurred without sex. It took place through splitting (the division of one large cell into two); budding (the growth and detachment of one part of a cell); polisporagamia (in a multicelled organism, the growth and detachment of a group of cells); and monosporogamia (in a cellular organism, the growth and detachment of a single cell, which then develops through division). In all these cases, reproduction is asexual. The fundamental phenomenon of reproduction, from the dawn of life, is always the detachment from an organism of a part, which continues to live and develop on its own.

From asexual reproduction, we pass through a series of transitional forms (hermaphroditism, alternating reproduction) to sexual reproduction, which occurs through an external influence, fertilization by the male. In sexual reproduction, the fundamental phenomenon-the growth of those parts of the organism that make the new being-is accomplished almost entirely at the expense of the female.

The Relationship of Size, Strength,and Physique in the Two Sexes

Among the lower animals, according to Milne Edwards, individuals of the two sexes often can be distinguished only by the characteristics of their reproductive apparatus. Many creatures were long thought to exist in the feminine form only. In many mollusks, the male could be distinguished from the female only at the moment of reproduction.

But as soon as differences between the two sexes become apparent, the female is superior to the male in size, strength, and number. "I believe," the honorable Professor Emery wrote when we asked him about this matter, "that the superiority of the female sex is necessary for reproduction at this primitive evolutionary stage. The female's usual superiority can already be seen in cases of parthenogenesis among crustaceans and even among certain insects (Rhodites rosae) in which the male sex hardly exists or has a minimal function; it can also be seen in cases of alternating reproduction."

In worms of the genus Bonellia, the female is a massive creature, while the male is very small, lower in organization, and parasitical on the female. In a rotifer, Hydatina senta, the male has no abdominal organs and no organs of sex or motion, while the female has all these. Another example of female superiority is provided by the Anilocra and other crustaceans that are parasitical on fish: as long as they are young, they produce sperm and have male sex organs; when they reach maturity, the testicles and penis atrophy, and, developing ovaries and vulvas, they become female. In many parasitical crustaceans-so writes Emery-the female is large while the male is very small and almost parasitical on the female.

As we go up the zoological scale, the female's superiority in size and strength recurs frequently. In many species of spiders the female is larger and more robust than the male. An exception occurs in Argyroneta aquatica, says Brehm, in which the male is actually more robust and measures 14 mm to the female's 11 mm (Vita degli animali, VI, p. 627, Torino, 1871). In almost all the other species, however, the difference is in favor of the female, which in Dolomede is a centimeter and a half longer than the male (Id., id., p. 635).

The female spider of Tegenaria domestica is 16 to 18 mm long, the male but 10 mm. In couplings one can see how the female's strength causes fear in the male and dampens his ardor. When the male, writes Brehm, wants to mate, it approaches the female slowly and prudently, to see if she will welcome his caresses or will view him as a tasty morsel. If the female seems favorably inclined, the male approaches hurriedly, touching the bottom of her stomach with the two ends of his palp in alternation, and afterward flees quickly in order to avoid becoming her victim (Id., id., p. 611). De Geer saw a male spider which, in the middle of his preparatory caresses, was seized by the female, pulled closer in her web, and devoured (Darwin, L'origine dell'uomo, ecc., p. 245).

Among birds, at the point on the evolutionary scale when the sexual struggle begins, so does the male's predominance in strength and size over the female. But even in the lower zoological orders, in one of the contradictions that we find frequently in this line of study, males are almost always superior in anatomical structure, variability, and motility. This is true even in species in which males are otherwise inferior (ants), which proves that males are more active in the sexual function. With the start of sexual competition in the higher species, males add physical power to their other forms of superiority.

Male birds are nearly always better provided with secondary sexual characteristics: rich plumage, song, and in many species heavier armor, not to mention the arsenal of tufts, wattles, tails, and crests which serve the male not only for adornment but often also to make his appearance more frightening. Thus the male of the New Zealand Neomorpha has a stronger beak (Darwin, p. 330); the male of the Indian partridge has spurs that the female lacks; and the same is true of the capercaillie. The male of the spurred goose has longer spurs than the female and uses them in defense of its young.

The predominance of the male cannot be predicted among these lower zoological orders, but it becomes more extensive and definitive among mammals. "In the mammals," says Darwin, "the males are always stronger and bigger than the females whenever there is a difference of size between the two sexes, which is almost always the case." Among carnivores the differences are particularly notable: the lion is stronger and bigger. It also holds for physique: the male lion has a mightier mane, muscles, paws, and canines than the female; in the roar it has another powerful weapon for breeding fear which the female lacks.


Among primates, sex differences become more accentuated and form perfect analogues with those of the human race. Male gorillas have a height of up to two meters, while the females never surpass one and a half. The female's skull is smaller and more rounded; less prognathous, lighter in weight, and lacking the bony crest, it forms a trapezoid, while the male skull is pyramidal. Moreover, the female's nose is smaller and pugged, with a shorter ridge. The body, the hands, the feet are slimmer in the female, the muscles less angular; the shoulders, arms, and legs are more delicate; the top of the humerus is less depressed, while the shinbone is smaller and less prismatic and the pelvic bones larger, flatter, and less hollow inside; and the ischium is more divergent in the woman. In addition, the female is feebler (Hartmann, Scimmie antropomorfe, Milan, 1881). Her canine teeth are blunter, shorter, and more compressed, with a triangular shape and less protuberance. Her molar has five cuspids, two external, two internal, and one posterior, which makes her similar to humans (Hartmann).


Thus among the inferior animals, female dominance in size and strength is typical. It manifests itself strongly in the zoological world and extends even to some species of birds. But little by little as one goes up the scale, the male begins to approach the female and then to become stronger, so that among the mammals without exception the male rules over the species.

Moreover, in the species in which the masculine is inferior in size and strength, it is nonetheless always superior in variability and physical perfection. One must also note-as Milne Edwards observes-that usually the specific differences which exist among individuals of the same type are smaller among females than among males. And according to Darwin, primitive strength and the hereditary tendency are greater in the female, while males are more variable, which explains the axiom of breeders and horticulturalists: The male gives variation, the female the species (Darwin, L'origine des espices [sic]).

Among insects, only the male has wings, the emblem and means of his greater motility. Due to the need to pursue, seize, and immobilize the female, males develop new organs-secondary sexual characteristics-which, according to Darwin, are more numerous throughout the animal world in the male than in the female, and which are extraordinarily variable, accounting for the great variability of the male. Females, on the other hand, must preserve the essential characteristics of the species, and so they are more fixed, and one notes a sameness in their major organs, a uniformity which Milne Edwards labels "the tendency to represent the average type of the species." This tendency reappears in the psychology of the normal and criminal woman.

These facts relate to the female's more important role in reproduction and to the struggle for possession of the female. We have already observed that the fundamental role in reproduction is exercised by the female, while the male plays only a minor part. Her greater importance is demonstrated by parthenogenesis and by the fact that in some Hymenoptera a single fertilization does the work of reproduction for the entire lifetime. Given the different functions of the male and of the female in reproduction, the female in primitive species must be larger, in order to nourish the part destined to form the new being. The male, whose destiny is to produce the fertilizing liquid, requires less organic energy and thus is of smaller size.

But in the higher orders, males' struggle with one another-a struggle rooted in their stronger sexual desire and perhaps also in their larger numbers-has led to their development of greater size and force than females, and to their superior physique. This fact illuminates Spencer's observation that in reproduction, antagonism produces growth and structural differentiation. In sum, the male has in all creatures a potential for development superior to the female through the very fact of his relatively minor role in reproduction.

Since, according to Spencer (Principes de biologie, vol. 11, p. 505 e 515), an opposition exists among reproduction, growth, and structure, in animals fecundity varies in inverse ratio to the development of size and structure. Similarly, there is an opposition between the evolution of the individual and the evolution of the species, so that the development and differentiation of the female is restricted by the great organic expenditure required for reproduction. Inversely, the boundaries of masculine development are broader. Thus we can understand how under the influence of the conditions of life the male, at first smaller, would, through a biological law, have been able to develop more than the female.

The male, then, is a more perfect and more variable female through the greater development of secondary sexual characteristics. This is also demonstrated by the fact, brought to light by Milne Edwards and Darwin, that throughout the animal kingdom, the adult female resembles the young male before he develops secondary sexual characteristics.

In terms of structure, male dominance is primitive, but in terms of strength and size, it is recent, brought about by specific conditions which, if they are absent, will cause a return of the male to a primitive state in which he is subordinate to the female. Naturally-writes Emery-special conditions such as parasitism or a sedentary life induce regression, leading to predominance of the female, which when exaggerated in turn leads to the complete disappearance of the male.


Excerpted from Criminal woman, the prostitute, and the normal woman by Cesare Lombroso Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of tables
List of illustrations
Editors' Introduction 3
Author's Preface 35
Pt. I The Normal Woman
1 The Female in the Animal World 41
2 Anatomy and Biology of Woman 46
3 Senses and Psyche of Woman 58
4 Cruelty, Compassion, and Maternity 65
5 Love 73
6 The Moral Sense 77
7 Intelligence 82
Pt. II Female Criminology
8 Crime in the Animal World 91
9 Crimes of Savage and Primitive Women 95
10 The History of Prostitution 100
Pt. III Pathological Anatomy and Anthropometry of Criminal Woman and the Prostitute
11 The Skull of the Female Offender 107
12 Pathological Anomalies 114
13 The Brains of Female Criminals and Prostitutes 118
14 Anthropometry of Female Criminals 121
15 Facial and Cephalic Anomalies of Female Criminals and Prostitutes 127
16 Other Anomalies 131
17 Photographs of Criminals and Prostitutes 135
18 The Criminal Type in Women and Its Atavistic Origin 144
19 Tattoos 151
Pt. IV Biology and Psychology of Female Criminals and Prostitutes
20 Menstruation, Fecundity, Vitality, Strength, and Reflexes 159
21 Acuteness of Sense and Vision 165
22 Sexual Sensitivity (Lesbianism and Sexual Psychopathy) 171
23 The Female Born Criminal 182
24 Occasional Criminals 193
25 Crimes of Passion 201
26 Suicides 209
27 The Born Prostitute 213
28 The Occasional Prostitute 222
29 Insane Criminals 227
30 Epileptic Criminals and the Morally Insane 231
31 Hysterical Criminals 234
App. 1 Comparing Three Editions of La donna delinquente 241
App. 2 Illustrations in the Earlier Editions 256
Notes 259
Glossary 285
References 291
Index 297
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