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4.6 out of 5 stars
Don't Call Us Molls: Women of the John Dillinger Gang
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have to say this is one of the best books on the "30's Outlaw ERA" I've read. I found more photos I haven't seen before and learned a ton of new facts. It was very refreshing to read about the women who loved these bad guys. This is a book that was way overdue. Ellen Poulsen did her homework and then some. I highly recomend this book. It is in important addition to any crime library. I know it is for mine.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I believe that anyone who is interested in the Middle Western crime wave during the Great Depression is sure to enjoy this book. Ellen Poulsen leaves no stone unturned in this meticulously researched chronicle of the women behind the public enemies who shot their way into the headlines during the Thirties. The author provides us with a wealth of little known facts about Evelyn Frechette, Marie Conforti (real name Comforti), the Delaney sisters, Bess Green, Opal Long, Helen Gillis (Mrs. Baby Face Nelson), and scores of others who, through a combination of sheer misfortune and tough times, shared the beds of some of the most notorious outlaws in the annals of U.S. crime. An informative book which furnishes insight into the sad lives led by the "gun molls" glamorized by the press.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Ellen Poulsen has brought us one of the most fascinating views of the Depression era outlaws ever written. This is the impeccably researched story of the women of the Dillinger gang, the entire other half of the short but historically explosive epic. Poulsen, who is a scholar and a wonderful writer, has produced a completely new insight into the men of the infamous bank-robbing gang through the women who traveled with them in the bloody months in the Midwest when machine guns and automobiles stole the headlines and captivated Americans everywhere. For fifteen years, Poulsen successfully tracked the harried lives of Dillinger's enigmatic gal, Evelyn "Billy" Frechett, Harry Pierpont's Mary Kinder, Russel Clark's Opal Long, and her sister, Patricia Cherrington.
Poulsen tirelessly tracked down and interviewed anyone who could shed illumination on these women, including sources that have now disappeared forever. What she has been able to reconstruct are the emotions, that human variable that fleshes out the mysterious machinations of the boldest criminals of the twentieth century. Poulsen nearly accounts for every day of their lives, with details heretofore undiscovered by the host of Dillinger gangsterologists who have authored some excellent books.
Through the women, you will never get closer to John Dillinger and his men. They were the mirrors that complete the story. Stoic, loyal, and tough as bullets, they loved, traveled, nursed and nurtured their men, disdaining authority and keeping to the code of discretion that earned them the newspaper title of "Molls." Long after the Dillinger gang were gone, these amazing women were left to speak for them, but their voices were mostly private, and Ellen Poulsen uncovered every whispered utterance, making the ultimate sense of a complex cluster of episodes. With popular culture having produced such an enormous pile of myths and misnomers, this book balances the scale with a startling array of information and facts that make these people real. There is pathos and great humor to be found; a good example is Billy Frechett's sardonic comment to a car salesman in St. Louis, who lifted a bag full of machine guns out of Dillinger's new car, straining as if it contained an anvil: "A lady has to have considerable baggage when traveling."
I love this book, and you will not find anything more true or entertaining about the Dillinger gang; their criminal exploits made them famous, but their women made them men, and Ellen Poulsen makes them all real.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Ellen Poulsen's well-researched narrative tells the story of the Dillinger crime spree from the perspective of the "molls," the women who ran with them. This is hardly "feminist history," but Poulsen does analyze it from the perspective of the women she writes about. Most came from poor families, some were left fatherless early in youth, and the Depression was hard on everyone. The women survived however they could, and the bandits they latched onto were more exciting than any of their other meager options. They rented apartments for their men, hid guns and money, provided alibis. The prominent "molls" in this study are Billie Frechette, Pat Cherrington, Mary Kinder, Bessie Skinner (aka Beth Green), among others.

Billie Frechette is the main character here. We learn of her early life, being shuttled to government "Indian schools," where she retained pride in her Menominee heritage despite the curriculum, and how she didn't really fit into reservation life (with her "wild girl" rep established early on). Nor was city life kind to her, as she got by with a series of low-rent jobs and lowlife men. Before and after she knew his true identity, Billie thought Dillinger a charming guy, and while his ample spending money was quite attractive, he also took her dancing and never got drunk -- certainly an improvement over all the other men she knew.

Poulsen clearly shows empathy for her subjects, which may have affected the questions she chose NOT to ask of her research. For example, in the first chapter she compiles hints and circumstantial evidence (such as the prevalence of syphillis among the Menominees in the '20s) that suggest Billie may have been so afflicted. Yet Poulsen doesn't ask that question of her material, preferring, it seems, to step back and NOT ask so she wouldn't have to tell.

Despite that, and some style beefs I have that are just differences of choice, I recommend this book as a unique contribution to the true crime genre. As another reviewer said, it works as a companion volume with Girardin and Helmer's book. And as a final plug, I bought it at Amazon!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
I must say that in all the recent books about gangsters and their molls from the 1930s, this book is one of the best ever, period! Full of new information on the Dillinger gang and Ma Barker and her brood of killers. Also, many photographs, which have never before been published. If you don't purchase this one, you are missing out on an important part of researching any gangster from this time period, which will include the woman who ran with these bandits.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
A unique twist on the Dillinger story.Told from the ladies veiwpoint.Well researched and a darn good read.I was hooked after the first few pages and stayed that way to the end.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Ellen Poulsen's "Don't Call Us Molls" is one of the best Dillinger books I've ever read--and I've read 'em all! A long overdue, well written, and amazingly researched study of the women of the gang. Feminist writing? Maybe it's just told from the feminine viewpoint by a woman author. Is that too hard to understand? As for the reviewer who claims Poulsen misrepresents Sheriff Lillian Holley as an unfairly treated scapegoat in the Crown Point affair, well he makes an adequate point that Lillian was in charge and the responsibility was hers but that point is pretty much nullified by the fact that Sheriff Holley and District Attorney Robert Estill (who also unjustly received much of the blame for Dillinger's escape) were among the few at Crown Point who weren't paid off. This is history at its best, folks! Read for yourself and you'll see what I'm talking about.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
It's been rare that the female element in the Prohibition and Outlaw era underworlds has been given more than a cursory examination. (Well, Bonnie Parker and Arizona 'Kate' Barker might have been the only exceptions, but what are two out of hundreds?) Ellen Poulson's excellent work gives the women of the Dillinger gang their long overdue place in the historical spotlight, without canonizing them as long-suffering martyrs or making excuses for them. Poulson made good use of solid research and personal interviews in order to describe the private lives of Mary Kinder, Evelyn Frechette, Pat Cherrington, Opal Long, and their contemporaries; fascinating detail and previously unknown facts make this book a must for any crime library.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a law student and history buff, I found this book reshing. It is serundipidous to come across a book which is rich in historical accuracy and interesting & enjoyable to read! The characters were compelling and the extensive documentation permitted me to sit back and enjoy. I have read extensively on the subject but enjoyed the book anew for its ability to cause a connect with the characters as individuals who seemed to be looking desparetly for something they could never truly have. This book brings the trappings of poverty and inequality to life.
I would recomend this book to anyone who is looking for a new take on an old story.
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
While I agree that a book covering the lives (and hopefully motivations) of the women associated with John Dillinger and other Depression-era gangsters is long overdue, I have some serious issues with "Don't Call Us Molls...".
Most problematic for me is this book being lauded for it's outstanding research. Well I'm no great Dillinger "expert" but here are a few of the mistakes, I found on the first pass through. On page 326, during a bank robbery in Fostoria, Ohio, the author claims the Chief of Police Frank Culp was killed. Nope. He survived being shot. The bullet entered one lung and crushed a rib. His was the most serious injury. There were NO fatalities from the First National Bank of Fostoria robbery.
Another discrepancy shows up on page 50. The author states that one of the girlfriends, Mary Northern Kinder, was born in 1908. On the same page, it says she was 22 years old in 1933. Not according to my math. She would have been 25 years old.
There are annoying mistakes scattered throughout that never should have made it past the editor. On pages 50 and 51, a character is called "Silent Margaret" Behrens. Later on, in the book, this same character is now known as "Silent Sadie" Behrens (pages 411 and 421). Another boo-boo can be found on page 100. An Officer O'Malley is killed during the First National bank robbery in East Chicago. Initially he's called Patrick O'Malley then two paragraphs down it becomes William O'Malley.
Even though the book is loaded with details, often explainations are either muddled or not given at all when the author could have cleared things up with one or two concise facts. During a trial description on page 150, one of the defendant's lawyers digs up a little known law which forbids extradition of any prisoner against whom charges are pending in another state. This law supposedly keeps a prisoner by the name of Ed Shouse from returning to testify a second time. Later on the same page, it states..."The same witnesses came up to testify, with the exception of Shouse, who refused to return to Lima." Ok, did the law change? Did Ed Shouse get cold feet? Or did the author leave out some groundwork that would have helped the reader understand what happened?
Although my complaints have been objective up till now, I have one final purely subjective comment. Ellen Poulsen, the author, in her attempts at deglamorizing Dillinger and company, goes too far.They come across as a bunch of psychopathic losers and idiots. If that is indeed the case, then why should I care to learn anything about these gangsters' ladies?
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