- Historic Sites
She Had To Die!
One of Ruth Snyder’s Crimes Was Murder
October/november 1980 | Volume 31, Issue 6
Then it was all over. Judd Gray repeatedly had urged young men to stay away from bad liquor and bad women; and in the end he had died like a man. On the front page of the Mirror Ruth Snyder’s portrait was replaced by the smiling face of Charles Lindbergh. The show-business celebrities who had haunted the trial went back to Hollywood and the Great White Way: D. W. Griffith to the movies, Evelyn Law to the Ziegfeld Follies, and David Belasco—who had attended the trial out of his “duty to the public” to watch any dramatic proceedings—went back to Broadway where lesser shows had folded while thousands were turned away from the Queens courthouse. The Times hoped the execution of a husbandslayer—the first such execution in New York in forty years—would have a much-needed deterrent effect, while the Mirror congratulated itself that the “impressive lesson of the Snyder case—more effective than a thousand sermons”—would save countless people from their own “follies.” The morality play was over. After the executions, which the Post termed the “Finale of Queens Pageant,” Nunnally Johnson summed up the “drama of violence”: “That was the end. It was a grand show. It never failed once. It had no surprises, no Theatre Guild stuff, no modernisms. It was the good old stuff done well and fiercely. It was grim and grand. It moved slowly and inevitably like Dreiser. And it came at last, last night, to the magnificent, the tremendous, the incomparable curtain that the audience was counting on. Everybody walked out with a satisfied feeling. It was regular.”
And well might everyone feel satisfied, for the moral could not have been more clear. The final lesson of the Snyder-Gray drama was the lesson that had been taught to Ruth Snyder herself. In her last interview and in her final story for the Mirror she, in turn, restated the lesson for the public. “If I were to live over again,” she said, “I would be what I want my child to be—a good girl, really making the fear of God a guide to a straight life.” Again she wrote: “I said before ‘Go Straight’ and I mean it more than ever. And I wish a lot of women who may be sinning could come here and see what I have done for myself through sinning and maybe they would do some of the thinking I have done for months and they would be satisfied with their homes and would stop wishing for things they should try to get along without when they can’t have them."
“Maybe there are women who have nice homes (and husbands who do the best they can for them) even if they don’t like their husbands and they could bear it if they would only make up their minds everything can’t be just perfect.”
And again she wrote: "OH GOD, HOW A LOT OF WOMEN WOULD CHANGE IS THEY COULD COME HERE AND SEE MY PUNISHMENT.“