Outlaw women have been romanticized in print and film. The desperate times of the 1930s had a fair share of women gangsters. This is just a partial list of the women who became famous from a life of crime.
Bonnie Parker ~ Probably the most famous female villain. She’s been portrayed in movies: 1958 The Bonnie Parker Story, 1992TV movie Bonnie and Clyde-A True Story, 2013 TV mini-series Bonnie and Clyde. Faye Dunaway played Bonnie in the Oscar-winning Bonnie and Clyde in 1967.
Helen Gillis ~ Married to Lester “Baby Face Nelson” Gillis. In her 20s, the mother of two babies, she was on the Public Enemy Shoot to Kill list because of her close affiliation with her husband’s murder and mayhem. She surrendered to a the FBI after Gillis’ death and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
Pearl Elliott ~ A notorious madam connected to John Dillinger and his mentor, Harry Peipont who was executed in 1934. Pearl was also on the Shoot to Kill list, but died of natural causes at age 47.
Marie Baker ~ Called the Pretty Pants Bandit. After committing a robbery, she would demand the shop clerks to take off their pants. She always carried two guns. She served three years in prison as Mrs. Rose Durante and then disappeared.
Virginia Hills ~ Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend nicknamed The Flamingo after his Las Vegas Casino. She was portrayed by Annette Bening in the movie Bugsy and is the subject of Bugsy’s Baby: The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill, a book by Andy Edmonds.
Evelyn Flechette ~ Nicknamed Billie, she was John Dillinger’s girlfriend and accompanied him on a cross-country crime spree. Some say she was more of a housewife, caring for his needs, than an accomplice in crime. She did, however, survive several shootouts and spent two years in prison. She sold her stories to the magazine, True Confessions and True Romance, and the Chicago Herald Examiner newspaper. Upon her release, she went on a lecture tour Crime Doesn’t Pay.
Bonnie Parker, Helen Gillis, Pearl Elliott, Marie Baker, Virginia Hills, and Evelyn Flechette.
For more fugitives, outcasts, robbers and bandits, check out Outlaw Women, Notorious Daughters, Wives and Mothers by Robert Barr Smith. Available on Amazon.
April 18, 2016 at 1:25 am
I would hate to be on a Shoot to Kill list. It sounds kinda scary.
April 18, 2016 at 9:57 am
It would make it a bit hard to come out of hiding and go out in public.
April 18, 2016 at 8:55 am
Interesting post. I didn’t know about most of these women. Thanks for sharing.
April 18, 2016 at 9:56 am
Not the best way to get famous.
April 18, 2016 at 1:46 pm
Ever seen/heard the Frank Wildhorn musical, “Bonnie & Clyde”?
O for Olive Oatman
April 18, 2016 at 4:10 pm
Oh, awesome list!
April 18, 2016 at 5:58 pm
Those were scary times, weren’t they? I wouldn’t have wanted to live back then!
April 18, 2016 at 8:56 pm
While I know the idea is romantic, the reality of their lives had to be rather grim. Very interesting to see them here in this post. I wonder if any of them ever met? What a group that would have been.
April 18, 2016 at 11:10 pm
You are right. Their lives had to be grim and frightening. They are here because as women in the 1930s, they survived the way they knew how.
November 18, 2016 at 6:59 pm
Rose Durante aka Marie Baker was my grandmother. My mother was her only daughter and nothing like her in any way. Just curious as to where you got your information.
November 18, 2016 at 8:28 pm
Rachael, I am trying to imagine how it would feel to be the descendent of an infamous woman. I have always been fascinated by the women of the 1930s and how they survived both economically and emotionally outside the norm in a man’s world. I discovered Marie Baker on a website http://www.mentalfloss.com/tenfemaleganstersyoushouldknowabout and also a You Tube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVBrctLekOI Thank you for stopping by.
November 20, 2016 at 6:17 pm
Lori thank you for the response. My mother had article about her mother and shared them with us when we became older. We were aware that her mother hung around a rough crowd. The YouTube video mentions the Bronx as part of the area where certain crime occurred, in fact that is the area where my great grandfather (my mothers father) had a bread store. We were all born and raised in East Harlem and later settled outside of the city. My grandmother never disappeared – she used different names and spent her final years in Miami Florida. I always search for information about my family as my mother was extremely protective of her children.
November 21, 2016 at 3:32 pm
I hope you can find more information about your grandmother. It can always seem like something is missing when we don’t have the facts. My mother, for different reasons, was always secretive and I’ve spent lots of time searching for the missing pieces. Good luck to you.