Beginning in 1933, Eleanor Jarman was sensationalized by the press as the "blonde tigress" and "the most dangerous woman alive." But a closer look at her life shows that she was an otherwise ordinary woman who got caught up in a Chicago crime spree, then was convicted as an accomplice to murder and sent to prison. In 1940, Eleanor escaped and managed to live out her life as, perhaps, America's longest-running female fugitive.
Following the murder of an elderly shopkeeper, readers are given a front-row seat for Eleanor's arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing—all documented with recently unearthed primary-source police records, court transcripts, and prison files—and her subsequent prison years. Woven in are comparisons and contrasts between Eleanor's and her escape partner's criminal histories, as well as speculation on their lives on the lam. Whether Eleanor deserved her sentence, or whether it was too harsh, is left for the reader to decide.
In Search of the Blonde Tigress sets the mystery and intrigue of this wanted woman into historic context. It also includes her family's plea, in 1993, for Eleanor to come forward and apply for clemency. Most revealing at the time was Eleanor's alias. With that information (and considering that Eleanor, born in 1901, is certainly now deceased), Silvia Pettem documents her search for Eleanor's remains—right up to a visit to her likely grave.
Silvia Pettem is a Colorado-based historical researcher, writer, and author. After local history research led her to the identification of a decades-old murder victim, Pettem switched from writing about history to the genre of true crime. Her latest book, In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman, combines biography and prison reform in the 1930s with modern-day evidence that has helped to unravel a long-standing mystery.
Pettem's other books that relate to cold case investigations include Someone's Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe (2009); Cold Case Research: Resources for Unidentified, Missing, and Cold Homicide Cases (2013); The Long Term Missing: Hope and Help for Families (2017); and Cold Case Chronicles: Mysteries, Murders, and the Missing (2021). Pettem lives with her husband and two cats in the mountains west of Boulder, where she continues her research and writing. She can be reached through her website, silviapettem.com.
"In Search of the Blonde Tigress is a richly detailed true crime story that draws the reader into the anxieties of the Great Depression and Prohibition. Silvia Pettem has successfully recreated the life of Eleanor Jarman, believed to be America’s longest-running female fugitive. But was Jarman the ‘most dangerous woman alive,’ as major newspapers and law enforcement called her? Or was she simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? Pettem’s incredible research and tight narrative about the fate of Jarman is a real whodunit. More broadly, it’s an intriguing look at the intersection of the law, the media, and family obligations during a time in which women had few means and even fewer avenues of justice."
"Fascinating, informative, compelling, and combining biography and prison reform in the 1930s with modern-day evidence that has helped to unravel a long-standing mystery, "In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman" will have immense appeal to readers with an interest in criminology and true crime. While an unreservedly recommended pick for community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists."
"Silvia Pettem continues the tradition of combining meticulous research with a critical review of the criminal justice system. She explores the story of Eleanor Jarman, who was called the 'most dangerous woman alive' in the '30s. The story the author presents gives us a different take on Eleanor, the crime, the trial, and her further life. As she did with her previous books, Pettem sketches not just the scene but the era. It is instrumental to get the story right. And that’s what she does best—she gets the story right."