I am one of many who watched with interest the Womens March in Washington, D.C. the day after the Trump inauguration. I was very curious about the purposes for their march. I was (and still am) puzzled at what the outcry was against. After all, abortion is legal as are LGBT rights including marriage and adoption. I know in other areas there are still challenges and concerns. But I honestly have felt regarding womens rights in America things had progressed dramatically in the last few years. I still do not understand the totality of the outcry and certainly do not understand why anyone — especially Madonna — would cry that she occasionally would like to blow up the White House. Yes, equality of pay in the workplace is not equal for women. Yes in many societies on Earth women are held in contempt, viewed as actual chattel property, are not allowed to drive, go to school, speak unless spoken to, and are considered to be valuable only as men in their lives determine. But with few exceptions these are not the cases in the U.S.
It bothered me to hear the vitriol that came off the stage by some who spoke that Saturday. Not only what was said shocked me, but I was surprised at who some of the speakers were. Some were women who are wealthy and by all accounts very successful: actors like Scarlett Johannsen, Ashley Judd, Madonna, Cher, and several others. Some are longtime feminist activists like Gloria Steinem whose positions on womens rights are well known. But one speaker floored me — Donna Hylton.
Donna Hylton is truly a womens right activist. But she’s a lot more. And what I am confident of is that she is NOT a good spokesperson for womens rights in America. And I doubt very many who stood on the Washington Mall listening to her really know who she is and her past. If they did and are OK with that, I am really concerned about what is happening among American women.
In 1985, Hylton helped kidnap, torture, rape, and murder a 62-year-old New York real estate broker named Thomas Vigliarole. At no point in her advocacy does she mention the name of her victim. On her website, her admission to her crimes is simply:
“My name is Donna Hylton, but for twenty-seven years I was known as Inmate #86G0206. In 1986 I was sentenced to 25 years-to-life for kidnapping and second-degree murder. I served the time at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, the only maximum-security prison for women in New York State, and was released in 2012.”
The brutal torture and murder is outlined in the Psychology Today article written in 1995 about Donna Hylton. “Vigliarole believed that [Hylton and her accomplices] were prostitutes who were going to have sex with him. Instead, they picked him up on March 8 in Elmhurst, Queens, at Maria [Talag]’s home, and drugged him to make him drowsy. Then they drove him to Selma [Price]’s apartment in Harlem. The apartment had already been prepared for an extended torture session: the closet door had been cut, a pot put in it for use as a toilet, the windows boarded.
Vigliarole was set-up by Louis Miranda; the two had allegedly partnered on a graft and the payout had gone south. Miranda and his accomplices — Selma and Maria — had offered Donna Hylton and her two friends, Rita and Theresa, $9,000 each for helping kidnap and murder Vigliorole. When they were done, they locked Vigliorle’s decomposing body in a footlocker.’ Donna had planned to use the money to pay for a picture portfolio to start a modeling career.
What they did is disturbing to read:
“For the next 15 to 20 days (police aren’t sure just when Vigliarole died), the man was starved, burned, beaten, and tortured. (Even 10 years later, [New York City Detective William] Spurling could recall Rita’s chilling response when they questioned her about shoving a three-foot metal bar up Vigliarole’s rear: ‘He was a homo anyway.’ How did she know? ‘When I stuck the bar up his rectum he wiggled.’)
The three girls took turns watching the man. It was Donna who delivered a ransom note and tape to a friend of Vigliarole’s, who was able to get a partial license plate number of the car she was driving. He notified the police, who traced the plate to a rental car facility. On April 6 the suspects were arrested, and detectives spent 36 hours straight interviewing the seven men and women. ‘We had to keep going back and forth and catch them in lies,’ said Spurling. ‘It was a never-ending circle of lies.’ Spurling himself interviewed Donna: ‘I couldn’t believe this girl who was so intelligent and nice-looking could be so unemotional about what she was telling me she and her friends had done. They’d squeezed the victim’s testicles with a pair of pliers, beat him, burned him. Actually, I thought the judge’s sentence was lenient. Once a jailbird, always a jailbird.’
Hylton served a 27-year prison sentence for her heinous crimes. Since her release, Hylton has become an outspoken advocate of prison reform, and claims the justice system mistreated her because she was a woman.
At the march in Washington, Hylton was keynote speaker and was cheered by hundreds of thousands of women as a hero. I have two granddaughters. I shudder to think that they would ever look at any woman who had personally participated in such activities and who obviously had such little care for human life as a role model and especially not a qualified spokesperson for womens rights. Yes we have a long way to go to complete in America the transition for women from where they were to where they want and need to go. But we’ve traveled far down that road already. I don’t think we need the vitriol spewed by Hylton and others to spur us on toward that goal.