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.

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 Minnecci, arrested the day after the shooting. George Kennedy [Dale] was sentenced to die in the electric chair.


Six weeks later, Eleanor Jarman was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 199 years in prison. It was the longest sentence a woman had ever received. Minnecci received the same sentence, while Kennedy [Dale] was given an October 13 date to die in the electric chair.

Jarman would serve her sentence in the Illinois Penitentiary for Women in Dwight, where there were no cells. The women slept two to a room on small cots. There was a dresser and mirror in each room, and prisoners were permitted to decorate the walls with pictures.

The whereabouts of Jarman's two children was unknown. She refused to tell authorities anything about them, except she'd left with with "respectable persons."

A few days after her arrival at Dwight, interest in Jarman began to fade, and her years in prison — all seven of them — were uneventful; she was considered a model prisoner. Did I say seven years? That's right. In 1940, she made her escape, and was never recaptured.

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
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 Minnecci) 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. Minnecci 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 Minnecci, 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 120th birthday this year (2024).