Irene Schroeder (February 17, 1909 - February 23, 1931) was an American criminal who became the first woman to be electrocuted in Pennsylvania, and the fourth woman to be executed by electrocution in the whole of the United States. She was given several nicknames by the press, including 'Trigger Woman', 'Iron Irene', 'Irene of the six-shooters', 'animal woman', 'the blonde tiger' and 'the blonde bandit'.
Irene Schroeder (née Crawford) was born in 1909 in Benwood, West Virginia. At the age of 15, she married Homer Shrader, and they had a son Donnie a year later. She soon left Homer, becoming a waitress in Wheeling, West Virginia. Here, she met Walter Glenn Dague, who became her lover.
On 27 December 1929, Irene, Walter Glenn Dague and Irene's older brother Tom Crawford were involved in a grocery store robbery in Butler, Pennsylvania. While escaping from the scene of the crime, they were stopped by two police officers, Brady Paul and Ernest Moore. A shoot-out ensued: Paul was fatally shot and Moore was wounded. Shrader, Crawford and Dague all escaped and went into hiding, leaving Irene's four-year-old son (who had been in the car at the time) with a family member. Irene changed the spelling of her name to Schroeder in order to muddy the trail the police were following.
Donnie was soon interviewed by the police, and his testimony was later used to help convict his mother. He stated:
"I saw my mama shoot a cop". Uncle Tom shot another one in the head. He shot right through the windshield.
Tom Crawford was never arrested; police believe he was killed in a shoot-out following a robbery in Texas. After a long manhunt, Dague and Schroeder were both apprehended following a shoot-out in Arizona. They were tried in Pennsylvania and sentenced to death by electrocution - Schroeder was the first female to be executed in this way in Pennsylvania.
Schroeder was electrocuted on February 23, 1931 at 7:05 a.m., wearing "a gray dress of imitation silk with white collars and cuffs, beige silk stockings and black satin slippers" to her death. Her executioner remarked that she seemed particularly "composed and fearless". Her parting words to her then-seven-year-old son Donnie were, "I am going to die, my boy, but I am not afraid. Be a good boy and don't be afraid." Donnie was heard to remark, "I'll bet my mom would make an awful nice angel."
- Miller, Megan J. (20 February 2011). "Schroeder Case Made History". Times Online. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
- Gillespie, L. Kay (2009). Executed Women of the 20th and 21st Centuries. University Press of America. p. 42.
- Shipman, Marlin (2002). The Penalty is Death: U.S. Newspaper Coverage of Women's Executions. University of Missouri Press. pp. 209–216.