Saturday, 30 August 2014

Irene Schroeder - "Iron Irene"

The history of crime in the USA in the 1930`s is riddled with the gangsters who roamed outside of the big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and created newspaper headlines that rivalled anything of those from the crime syndicates.  Dillinger, Barrow, Floyd, Barker, are amongst the most well known, but a couple of women did emerge.  Of course, the most well known are Bonnie Parker & Barbara "Bloody Babs" Graham.  But how many have heard of Irene Shroeder, a woman who met her end in the hot seat of Pennsylvania`s Rockview Penitentiary.  She was given numerous nicknames by the press; "Iron Irene" "The Trigger Woman" were the most commonly referred to.

    Life began for Irene Crawford on February 17th 1909 in Benwood, West Virginia, and by the time she had reached 16, she was married to Homer Schrader, but had given herself freely to any man she had a liking for.  She was already bored with being married, a after giving birth to a son, Don, she left Schrader and started working as a waitress in Wheeling, West Virginia.  It was whilst she was waitressing, that she met a man she had an instant liking for; Walter Glenn Dague, a married man with children, whom had been a Sunday school teacher and had been involved with the scouts.  Dague soon lost his jobs, and his family after it became known he was sharing Irene`s bed.  An idea was hit upon to start robbing stores around the country, and despite the initial reservations by her lover, Irene was able to bend him to her will.  She brought in her brother Tom Crawford and set off in 1929 on their crime spree.  A spree that was to leave one cop dead and three wounded.

    They carried out numerous store hold ups but one day they were stopped at a roadblock by officers Brady Paul and Ernie Moore.  Crawford drew a gun on Paul, then Irene leant out of the window and shot the officer dead.  Then she shot Officer Moore, but he was to survive.  They escaped, and newspapers came up with names to call this most definitely "Femme Fatale".   Tom Crawford now had dropped out of sight.  There was a rumour that he had been killed in a shootout in Texas, but this was never proven.  Irene replaced her brother with a newly released armed robber named Tom Wells.  Irene had her young son in the car when the shootings took place and the words of her own son were to help convict her.  She left him with a family member and soon he was being spoken to by Police.  The words of a little boy were devastating in court. "I saw mama shoot a cop.  Uncle Tom shot another one in the head.  He shot right through the windscreen."

    Irene had now slightly changed her surname from Schrader to Schroeder, in order to throw cops off her trail.  The end came when she was stopped in an Arizona street by a cop who found himself staring down the barrel of a gun and told to get in the car.  They were stopped at a roadblock, where two cops were wounded by gunfire from the car.  As it sped off, the officer being held hostage, was thrown out.  The fugitives headed for the hills where they had another shootout, but seeing the overwhelming odds they faced, she surrendered.  Both were put on trial for the murder of Brady Paul and attempted murder of Ernie Moore.  They were convicted and sentenced to death.  Irene went to the chair first, days after her 22nd birthday, where she gained the admiration of the death chamber guards as she faced her demise with total calm.  One later remarked, "She died game!"