HOME | YESTERDAY | FAMILY | MEMORIES | SOLVAY | EXTRA! EXTRA! | STARSTRUCK | JACK MAJOR | BASEBALL

Whether blondes really have more fun is open for debate. What's certain is that newspapers in the 1930s often used the word "blonde" as a synonym for "sexy."

Eleanor Jarman was a woman of many hair colors, and perhaps when she was young she might have been described as a "dirty blonde," having hair too light to be called brown (or red), but too dark to be blonde, which conjures up an image of a bleached beauty such as Jean Harlow. Eleanor Jarman clearly was no Harlow.

The fact Jarman toted a gun and was mixed up with a gangster added to her newspaper appeal. To top it off, police and reporters gave her a nickname — "The Blonde Tigress" (or "The Blonde Tiger Girl") — supposedly for her brutality during one crime she committed with her boyfriend, George Kennedy (aka Dale). Police said she kicked a man after he had been fatally shot — but she denied this ever happened.

Interest in Jarman faded with her conviction in 1933 when she was sent to prison, where she was expected to remain for the rest of her life. But Eleanor Jarman wasn't finished. Her lasting claim to fame was seven years down the road.

Niagara Falls Gazette, August 10, 1933
CHICAGO (AP) — A four-day search for a blonde gunwoman was over today with the arrest of a redhead and her male companion from whom police said they obtained a confession that he shot and killed Gustav Hoeh, 71, during a holdup.

The pair, Mrs. Eleanor Jarman, 29, mother of two children, and George Kennedy [Dale], 28, were seized last night in a boarding house where police said they found four revolvers and a blackjack.

Captain Willard Malone, leader of the raid on the house, and Assistant State’s Attorney Emmett Moynihan said both prisoners confessed to them that Kennedy had fired in a panic when Hoeh resisted the attempted holdup in his haberdashery store last Friday.

Described as a blonde by witnesses, Mrs. Jarman’s hair was a source of police interest today and they said they intended to question her whether she had dyed it red as a means of disguise.

Accusation that Kennedy had fired the fatal shot were first made by a third member of the alleged robber trio, Leo Minneci, arrested the day after the shooting.

 

Ballston Spa Daily Journal, September 20, 1933
By CARL J. TURNER
CHICAGO (INS) — Once known as the “blond tigress” because of the brutality that marked her crime, Eleanor Jarman, 28-year-old mother of two small children, today resembled more the crushed kitten as she went about her routine in the state’s newest prison for women, at Dwight.

She must spend the rest of her life in that prison, and to make sure that she does, the court in which he was convicted of first degree murder gave her 199 years instead of the customary life sentence which would have made her eligible for parole in a few years if her behavior was good.

So far as is known, it is the longest sentence a woman has ever received and is paralleled in local justice only by the similar sentence given one of her companions in a career of crime that included dozens of robberies, climaxed by the one in which the “tigress” gang killed aged Gustav Hoeh.

A third gang member, George Dale, who fired the shot that killed Hoeh when he resisted the trio’s attempt to rob him of a few dollars in the cash drawer of his small store, was sentenced to die in the electric chair on October 13. Leo Minneci and Mrs. Jarman each received 199-year sentences.

The “tigress” in one of her fits of brutality was accused of kicking the old man after he fell mortally wounded. This she denied, claiming she was in the rear of the store when she heard the shot fired, and did not know her companions intended to stage a robbery they they entered Hoeh’s store.

But her long criminal record, extending over a period of six months, deterred the jury from accepting her protestations of innocence. She had admitted taking part in numerous other robberies with Dale and Menneci.

When arrested, the “tigress” took with her to jail a wardrobe of dazzling gowns that would compare favorably with that of a movie star, but a few days later the owners of her finery had claimed all but the dark blue dress she wore at the trial. When a long procession of victims identified her, a list of 40 robberies had been chalked up against her.

Four other women prisoners accompanied the “tigress” on the train to Dwight. They tried to prepare her for the life sentence by telling her of the many conveniences of the new women’s reformatory, which looks more like a group of eight mansions than a prison.

They reminded her there are no cells at Dwight; the women sleep two to a room on small cots. There is a dresser and mirror in each room, and prisoners are permitted to decorate the walls with pictures as they see fit. Most of them plaster the walls with lithographs of movie stars.

But Mrs. Jarman was in no mood to appreciate a prison’s finer points.

“No matter how comfortable it is,” she sobbed, “it’s a prison. I’d rather have my two kids and live in a shanty than be shut up in the finest prison in the world” — a thought that apparently hadn’t occurred to her before Hoeh was killed.

To matron Mary Kennedy, Mrs. Jarman reiterated her asserted innocence of the crime for which she was convicted.

“I’ve been on a good many robberies,” she confessed, “but on that last affair I had no idea the boys were going to stage a holdup.

“Anyway, I don’t see why they had to give me the kind of sentence I drew.”

Throughout the trial she refused to reveal the whereabouts of her two children, other than to say they were in the hands of respectable persons.

She pleaded that circumstances forced her into a career of crime. Soon after the birth of her second child, she said, her drunken husband deserted her, and as her parents were dead, she had no one to appeal to for aid.

She solved the food problem by setting up in business as the keeper of a beer flat, and it was there that she met Dale, who later introduced her to Menneci. She and Dale “went for rides” in his car, and later these rides developed into robbery tours.

 

Jarman's years in prison — all seven of them — were uneventful; she was considered a model prisoner. Until 1940, that is, when she made her escape. She was never recaptured. And in 1966, when TV's "The Fugitive" was all the rage, a reporter wrote this tribute to the woman who was the real thing:

 

Long Island Star Journal, May 25, 1966
By EDWIN A. LAHEY
WASHINGTON — Sometimes on Tuesday nights I watch “The Fugitive,” starring David Janssen. Grace, my wife for 37 years, thinks this is corroborative evidence that I’m goofy.

But I knew a woman in Chicago who is a fugitive. Her name is Eleanor Jarman. When Dr. Richard Kimble, the TV fugitive, is daring from pillar to post, I think fondly of Eleanor.

Like Kimble, Eleanor was convicted of murder. It was back in 1933. Eleanor, her lover, George Dale, and another man (Leo Minneci) stuck up a notions store in Chicago. Dale shot and fatally wounded the storekeeper, who was 70 years old.

The police account said that Eleanor kicked the elderly man in the head as he lay dying on the floor. The three criminals were rounded up, tried and convicted. Those of us who covered these events nicknamed Eleanor “The Blond Tigress.” It didn’t help her with the jury.

Dale was given the chair. Minneci was given 99 years. Eleanor had a long sentence, either life or 99 years. I forget. (It was 199 years, actually.)

WHEN THEY committed Eleanor, I accompanied her on the Alton Railroad to the model penitentiary for women in Dwight, Illinois. A couple of other women convicted of murder were also in the party.

Between Joliet and Dwight, I saw with Eleanor. Tears dribbled down her cheeks as the train slowed down for the Dwight stop. She whimpered like a naughty child.

I felt real compassion when I said goodbye to Eleanor at the prison. But I forgot about her until one night in August, 1940, when her story resumes.

I had been down in Carrollton, Illinois, to cover the funeral of House Speaker Henry T. Rainey, for which President Franklin D. Roosevelt had flown out from Washington. Mrs. Lahey was with me, and took the wheel late in the day for the long drive back to Chicago. I was exhausted and collapsed in the rear seat of the car.

I was awakened with a start about 3:30 a.m. The rain was coming down at a 45-degree angle. A flashlight beat shone in my face. And the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun was an inch from my nose.

WE WERE on the edge of Dwight, Illinois. A deputy explained that a roadblock was stopping all cars. Two women had just escaped from the reformatory. One of them was Eleanor Jarman.

I started to say, “Hurrah!,” but didn’t.

Eleanor has never been seen nor heard from since.

When I am in some wayside diner late at night, and a beat-up old doll in her 60s in dishing out chili, I am tempted to ask if she is Eleanor. But I never do.

I keep hoping that she got some good out of life. Leon Minneci, who drew 99 years, was released in 1957, on parole. Eleanor could have been legally free by this time, for sure.

Every time I’ve heard Jimmy Durante do that poignant little salutation to Mrs. Calabash, I have said to myself:

“Good night, Eleanor Jarman, wherever you are.”

 

Supposedly her prison escape was triggered by a fear her son, Leroy, was going to run away from home. It is believed she visited her brother, Otto Berendt, and his wife, Dorothy, in Sioux City, Iowa, and asked about her two sons, who would grow up in foster homes.

Thirty-five years later, in 1975, she returned to Sioux Falls for a brief stop, never leaving the bus station She was met there by relatives who arranged for one of her sons, then in his 50s, to meet her that evening.

Then she dropped out of sight again. Forever. If still alive she'd celebrate her 114th birthday this year (2018).

HOME CONTACT