Joan <I>Vollmer</I> Burroughs

Joan Vollmer Burroughs

Loudonville, Albany County, New York, USA
Death 6 Sep 1951 (aged 27)
Colonia Roma, Cuauhtémoc Borough, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Burial Miguel Hidalgo, Miguel Hidalgo Borough, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Memorial ID 14637589 · View Source
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Joan Vollmer Adams-Burroughs is the most prominent female member of the early Beat Generation circle.

She was born in a suburb of Albany, New York in 1924, to David W. Vollmer, Sr and his wife Dorothy. She left to attend college in New York City.

Soon after that she married Paul Adams who was drafted to fight in WW II. Joan had a daughter Julie.
They divorced when Paul returned from the war.

While attending Barnard College, she became the roommate of Edie Parker (later married to Jack Kerouac) and their apartment became a gathering place for the Beats during the 1940s.

Early in 1946, she began a long-term relationship with the now popular author William S. Burroughs, later becoming his common-law wife.

From that relationship they had a son William S Burroughs Jr
who was born in 1947, in Texas where they had moved to try their hand at cash crop.

In 1949 she joined her common law husband with her children in Mexico City.

On the Thursday of September 6th,1951, Joan and Bill Burroughs were attending a party. They were both intoxicated when they decided to play a game of William Tell. The game "William Tell" is said to have been a game they had played before. Joan balanced a water tumbler on her head as her husband aimed one of his guns, tragically he missed and the bullet lodged in her skull and Joan died.

She was twenty-seven years old.

Burroughs was released after 13 days in jail for Joan's death.

Joan's children were sent back to the U.S to live with family.

William Burroughs remained in Mexico City because the case of Joan's death was yet to be resolved. It was ruled a culpable homicide, after Mexican police investigated.

The following is a poem the late poet Allen Ginsberg wrote after Joan's death. They were friends.

by Allen Ginsberg

A drunken night in my house with a
boy, San Francisco: I lay asleep.

I went back to Mexico City
and saw Joan Burroughs leaning
forward in a garden chair, arms
on her knees. She studied me with
clear eyes and downcast smile, her
face restored to a fine beauty
tequila and salt had made strange
before the bullet in her brow.

We talked of life since then.
Well, what's Burroughs doing now?
Bill on Earth, he's in North Africa.
Oh, and Kerouac still junps
with the same beat genius as before,
notebooks filled with Buddha.
I hope he makes it, she laughed.
Is Huncke still in the can? No,
last time I saw him on Times Square.
And how is Kenney? Married, drunk
ad golden in the East. You? New
loves in the West--

Then I knew
she was a dream: and questioned her
--Joan, what kind of knowledge have
the dead? can you still love
your mortal acquaintances?
What do you remember of us?

She faded in front of me--The next instant
I saw her rain-stained tombstone
rear an illegible epitaph
under the gnarled branch of a small
tree in the wild grass
of an unvisited garden in Mexico.

A big Thank You to Medora for Sponsoring this memorial. God bless you.

Family Members


  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: J.A. & D.S.
  • Added: 17 Jun 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial 14637589
  • Medora
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Joan Vollmer Burroughs (4 Feb 1924–6 Sep 1951), Find a Grave Memorial no. 14637589, citing Panteón Americano, Miguel Hidalgo, Miguel Hidalgo Borough, Distrito Federal, Mexico ; Maintained by J.A. & D.S. (contributor 46808935) .