Joan Vollmer

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Family Member
Date of Birth February 4, 1923
Place of Birth New York
Date of Death Sep 6, 1951 (28)
Horoscope Aquarius

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Joan Vollmer

Joan Vollmer was the most prominent female member of the early Beat Generation circle. While a student at Barnard College, she became the roommate of Edie Parker. Their apartment became a gathering place for the Beats during the 1940s, where Vollmer was often at the center of marathon, all night discussions. In 1946, she began a relationship with William S. Burroughs, later becoming his common-law wife. In 1951, Burroughs killed Vollmer in what he first admitted to and shortly thereafter denied as a drunken attempt at playing William Tell.

Born: February 04, 1923, Loudonville, New York, U.S.
Died: September 06, 1951, Mexico City, Mexico
Cause of death: Gunshot wound
Nationality: American
Other names: Joan Vollmer Adams, Joan Vollmer Burroughs
Education: St. Agnes School
Alma mater: Barnard College
Partner(s): William S. Burroughs
Children: Julie Adams, William S. Burroughs Jr.

About Joan Vollmer

Central figure of the Beat Generation who was most famous for her relationship with William S. Burroughs. Her son portrayed her in his 1973 novel, Kentucky Ham, as gentle, compassionate, and deferential.

Before Fame

She met Edie Parker while both were attending Barnard College. She was invited by Parker to live in her New York apartment. They often provided lodging for writers, hustlers, and drug addicts, many of whom would become prominent Beats in just a few years.


She hosted and took part in marathon, late-night discussions with famous Beat Generation figures such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Family Life

She had a passionate love affair with William S. Burroughs that ended in tragedy when Burroughs shot her to death during a drunken game of William Tell. Her death had a profound effect upon William's writing career. She had two children, her daughter Julie Adams with first husband Paul Adams and her son William S. Burroughs Jr. with Burroughs.


She was portrayed by Courtney Love in the 2000 film "Beat;" Burroughs was played by Kiefer Sutherland.

Information related to Joan Vollmer

  • William S. Burroughs
  • American expatriates in Mexico
  • Barnard College alumni
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Latest information about Joan Vollmer updated on October 25, 2020.

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