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Blanche Barrow

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Blanche Barrow

Blanche Barrow (born Bennie Iva Caldwell; January 1, 1911 – December 24, 1988) was a fringe member of Bonnie and Clyde’s gang and the wife of Clyde Barrow’s brother Buck. Brought up by her father, she had a poor relationship with her mother, who arranged for Blanche to be married to an older man. Blanche ran away and met Buck Barrow. He was 8 years older, and a fugitive.

With her encouragement, he surrendered. Two years later, he was not only released but granted a pardon that wiped out his conviction; if he had chosen to make the best of it, Buck had a splendid opportunity for a fresh start with the 22-year-old Blanche, who was considered strikingly attractive by his acquaintances. But, over her objections, Buck insisted on joining his brother’s gang.

Clyde led a gang that had already claimed five lives during armed robberies that were often bloodily botched. Blanche and Buck spent three weeks with them at a Joplin hideout, Blanche doing cooking and washing for the others, before the group’s dissolute behavior led to a raid in which two policemen were killed. Left behind were newsworthy photos of Bonnie posing with Clyde, and documents that identified Buck and Blanche.

Tracked down months later by heavily armed police, the gang again escaped, but Buck received a serious head wound, and Blanche had shards of glass from blasted windows in her eyes. Five days later police again closed in on the gang near an abandoned amusement park in Dexter, Iowa (about 33 miles from Des Moines). A bloody gun battle broke out and Buck was shot four times in the back. The others, including the crippled Bonnie, escaped through brush. Blanche was captured after she refused to leave Buck’s side after he had collapsed.

Blanche thought Sheriff Holt Coffey remarkably fair and sympathetic, but she claimed that while interrogating her, J. Edgar Hoover had threatened to gouge out her remaining good eye. Paroled after serving six years in prison, Blanche lived an unremarkable life, although she was consulted by actors and filmmakers for the popular 1967 film in which Estelle Parsons gave an Academy Award-winning portrayal of Blanche that she thought unrealistic. In a 2013 mini-series, Blanche was portrayed by Sarah Hyland

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