Ethel Leta Juanita Spinelli was the cold blooded leader of a gang
of criminals. Condemned for murder she was to be the first
woman to enter the gas chamber in San Quentin.
On Novenber 21, 1941 the 52 years old woman was walked to
the chamber wearing a long, short sleeved green dress. A
stethoscope was attached to her chest as well as pictures of her
as Juanita arived to the chamber, the witnesses were not in place.
She was offered to be taken back to her cell to wait, but she
preferred standing at the doorstep of the gas chamber chatting
about the weather outside.
When the witnesses were ready, she walked quickly into the gas
chamber and sat down as casually as if it were a chair in a
beauty palor. The lady took her time in the gas chamber - she
died 11 minutes after the the plumes of gas escaped from under
her seat and reached her nose. Juanita coughed, her head
dropped forward, then whipped back, streaming her long hair
over the chair back. She coughed again, then blew out her breath
with a sound like that a horse sometimes makes with the lips.
The folds of her long dress was suspected to have trapped the
fumes, and from then women were gassed in shorter dresses.
Juanita was waiting right in front of the two chairs, and she
could see the bags of cyanide suspended over the wells of
sulphuric acid beneath them!