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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.

Blanche Barrow
Buck and Blanche FOIA FBI.jpg
Blanche and Buck Barrow, 1931
Born Bennie Iva Caldwell
(1911-01-01)January 1, 1911
Garvin, Oklahoma
Died December 24, 1988(1988-12-24) (aged 77)
Dallas, Texas
Cause of death Cancer
Criminal status Paroled after six years
Spouse(s) John Callaway (m. 1928–31)
Buck Barrow (m. 1931–33; his death)
Eddie Frasure (m. 1940–69; his death)

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.



Early lifeEdit

Blanche Barrow was born Bennie Iva Caldwell in Garvin, Oklahoma, the only child of Matthew Fontain Caldwell (June 23, 1871 – September 19, 1947) and Lillian Bell Pond (c. 1894 – February 24, 1995).

At the time of her birth, her father was 40 years old and her mother was 16 years old. Her parents divorced while Blanche was still a young child, and she was raised by her father, with whom she had a close relationship. Her father made his living as a logger and a farmer. Matthew Caldwell was a devoutly religious man and occasionally preached as a lay minister. At age 17, Blanche was wedded to the much older John Calloway, a marriage arranged by her mother. Blanche ran away. In her book My Life with Bonnie and Clyde, Blanche said the experience with Calloway left her unable to bear children.[1]

Marriage to Buck BarrowEdit

On November 11, 1929, while hiding in Dallas County from her husband, Blanche met Buck Barrow, a twice-divorced criminal with children from a previous marriage; several days after meeting Blanche, Buck was shot and captured following a burglary in Denton, Texas. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to five years in the Texas State Prison System. On March 8, 1930, however, Barrow escaped from the Ferguson Prison Farm near Midway, Texas. In interviews with author-historian John Neal Phillips, Blanche was frank that she not only knew of Buck's escape, but that she hid with him. Blanche and Buck were married in Oklahoma, honeymooning in Florida.

Despite going ahead with the wedding while knowing Buck was a Texas prison escapee, within months she, and his family, convinced him to turn himself in. Two years later he was pardoned, meaning that legally he was no longer an ex-convict; if Buck had wanted to give up crime, this would have been a golden opportunity. A few days after being released, Bonnie and Clyde met Buck and Blanche at Blanche's mother's home and persuaded Buck to vacation with them in Joplin, Missouri.[1]

Blanche agreed to visit with Clyde, whose gang was already responsible for five murders when Buck joined, to be with her husband, but continued trying to talk Buck out of running with Clyde and Bonnie.[citation needed]

Barrow GangEdit

Clyde Barrow began as a reckless car thief; he has been described as a thoroughly incompetent criminal; resentment at his incarceration inspired the prison break scheme that he saw as the main objective of his gang. Never stealing large amounts of money, they attained fame through a series of unplanned murders, a distinguishing feature of which was use of the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), which was a long-ranged military machine gun. Bonnie Parker was also temperamentally unsuited to her lot in life; considered bright at school, with a gift for creative writing and speaking well enough to be warm-up speaker at political rallies, she was married at 16 to a neighborhood criminal.

Fascinated by movies, and having become disenchanted with the locality, (twice writing in her diary "Why don't something happen?") she fell in with the bravado of Clyde. Although without doubt complicit in his crimes, photos of her posing with weapons and a cigar created much of her public image, she was later to vehemently deny ever smoking cigars; W. D. Jones said he had never seen Bonnie firing a gun. She is said to have had a pistol on her when killed although not all weapons with similar provenance are universally acknowledged to be authentic. She was able to think clearly in fraught situations, and it was she who got the hot-headed Clyde out of danger on occasion.[2][3]

Devoted to her man, Blanche did not especially like Bonnie or Clyde. Buck, accustomed to deference from his younger brother, had difficulty in accepting Clyde as the leader he saw himself to be. Bickering stemming from the enforced proximity further increased Blanche's disenchantment over the four months she spent with the gang. She also had little taste for her use as the gang's factotum, being preoccupied with her own adornment and clothing; her memorable appearance in riding breeches that were tight across the rump was still being remarked on decades later.[4][5]


Blanche and Buck spent three weeks with them and W. D. Jones in Joplin. To her chagrin, Blanche ended up doing cooking and washing for the others. The group's loud (they consumed a crate of beer a day) card games, and an accidental discharge of the BAR by Clyde, led two carloads of armed police to confront the group as suspected bootleggers on April 13. Clyde responded by instantly opening fire; two of the policemen were killed while others took cover from the automatic weapons wielded by the gang. Jones received a straight-through wound. Blanche was pulled into the getaway car, having run down the street after her bolting pet dog. She later wrote that when being driven away from Joplin, she felt "all my hopes and dreams [were] tumbling down around me".[1]

Documents left behind identified Buck and Blanche; there were also photos of Bonnie provocatively posing with Clyde that were reproduced in newspapers and made national celebrities of them. On June 10, Clyde, although a skilled driver of his favored Ford V8s, frequently drove the dirt roads at 70 mph, missed 'bridge out' signs and crashed the car; leaking battery acid burned Bonnie's legs, crippling her and causing excruciating pain.[6][7][8] [9][10]

Two-unit Red Crown Tourist Court. Using his cabin's internal connecting door, Clyde entered the garage from where he fired with a BAR. 39°18′43″N 94°41′11″W / 39.31194°N 94.68639°W / 39.31194; -94.68639 (1933 Site of Red Crown Tourist Court Platte City, Missouri)

The discovery of half-burnt bandages meant the gang were suspected to be in the vicinity when they stopped at what was, unbeknownst to them, a popular meeting place for local law enforcement in Platte County, Missouri, on July 18. Blanche was given coins to pay for renting a cabin, checking in as three, then sent for food for five. Next day, ignoring that the manager had made a point of getting the garage doors opened so he could note their license plate, which was a stolen one that Clyde had foolishly kept, Blanche was sent to pay in coins for another night's rent. The manager mentioned a refund if they informed him they were leaving before night. Blanche thought it an odd remark, and warned Clyde the manager was the punctilious type likely to have informed the law, which he had, in fact, done. By midday the license plate had identified them and enabled Sheriff Holt Coffey to get assistance from a skeptical Sheriff of Kansas City. Clyde, having taped newspapers across his cabin windows, was unable to see that anything was amiss.[11]

At 1 a.m. on July 20, at the head of a heavily armed posse of about 13, and with a bulletproof sedan blocking the garage door for the Barrow's car, and bearing a steel shield, Sheriff Coffey knocked on one of the gang's two cabins, saying that he needed to speak to them. Blanche's answer of "just a minute" was a pre-arranged alarm phrase that alerted Clyde, who went into the garage from where he could see Coffey through a glass panel in the door, and fired through it with a BAR. Coffey, who was not angling the shield to that line of fire dived away amid a covering barrage from the posse in the blacked out surroundings. In perhaps the only occasion that the high powered weapons were especially useful, point blank BAR fire caused minor injuries to the armored sedan driver, who maneuvered clear of the front of the garage door, thereby freeing an escape route for the gang's car. Buck and Blanche had to leave the cover of their cabin and round the building to get to the garage, and thus exposed, were targeted by the posse, Buck fell with a piece of his skull blown out. Blanche stopped and while under fire dragged him into the car, helped by Clyde, Jones using his BAR. When the car emerged it came under a barrage of fire and glass was blasted into Blanche's face, blinding her left eye.[12]


Blanche Barrow (not long after her capture)

Two hundred miles away, and having acquired another car, they camped off of an overgrown dead-end road in a park near Dexter, Iowa. Buck's injuries were too severe to permit them to leave.[1][13]

Within four days they were identified by purchase of medical supplies, and bloodstained refuse a stroller had discovered. With the road covered, a 50-strong posse, mainly townspeople armed with shotguns and hunting rifles, approached the camp soon after dawn. Clyde and Jones opened fire with BARs on the half dozen that they saw. An attempt to drive off ended when the car was wrecked on a tree stump.[citation needed]

Although the posse suffered no casualties, which may have been deliberate or the difficulty of aiming the weapons, like all in gunfights with the Barrow gang, they were shocked by the sudden concentration of firepower from Browning Automatic Rifles from which they were subjected, and the hail of bullets ripping through the wood gave them pause. Jones and Clyde were lightly wounded and the other car was shot to pieces; abandoning the heavy BARs, the gang ran further into the woods at right angles to the posse's approach.[citation needed]

Blanche and Buck separated from the other three when he collapsed. After he was again wounded, they stood up and surrendered. The photograph shows a distraught Blanche moments after she was pulled away from Buck, who is lying yards to the right. Due to her impaired vision, Blanche thought the camera was a gun, expecting that she and Buck were about to be summarily shot.[14][15]

With Jones carrying Bonnie, the trio, descended a slope and entered thick brush that extended up to a riverbank. The posse members were wary of entering the undergrowth, where they might find the tables turned, and they contented themselves with firing into it at random, wounding Bonnie with shotgun pellets, and yelling at the fugitives to surrender. The capture of Blanche and Buck, and, according to Jones, Clyde being shot at while scouting some distance away, may have distracted the posse. Clyde's trio, now only armed with an empty pistol, crossed the river to a farm and, appropriating the farmer's car with kerosene for fuel, they made good their escape.[16][17][18]


July 27, 1933 — Blanche was in prison until 1939.

Blanche said she accompanied the gang to be with her husband. Apparently she gave no useful information despite pressure to cooperate for a light sentence, although she must have known much that could have helped catch Bonnie and Clyde, such as the identity of those who were still helping the fugitives.[citation needed]

Sent to Platte County, Missouri, Blanche was charged with assault with intent to commit the murder of Sheriff Holt Coffey, who had narrowly escaped death (his teenage son received a substantial wound to the arm). She found, to her surprise, that Coffey bore no grudge against her. She was convicted on the charge and sentenced to 10 years in the Missouri State Penitentiary. Treatment was unable to save the vision in her left eye.[1]

In 1935, subsequent to Jones having given the authorities a thorough account of the gang's use of Blanche to communicate with their families, she and he, along with a score of others including family members of Bonnie and Clyde, were tried for 'harbouring'. Both during her time in prison and after her parole she remained in close contact with Coffey and his family, as well as with Platte County prosecutor David Clevenger. She was released after six years, the same time served by Jones.[19]

Life after releaseEdit

Following her release from prison, Blanche Barrow moved to Dallas, Texas, working in various jobs. In 1940, she married Eddie Frasure. One year later, she completed her parole; however, police continued to monitor her whereabouts and she often was contacted when arriving in a new city. Blanche enjoyed reminiscing with her friends, a Barrow sister and a sister of Parker, as the trio went fishing with beers, though in later life she said Bonnie and Clyde now seemed like characters in a book she had read.[20]

Eddie died in 1969, and Blanche died from cancer in 1988, aged 77. She was survived by her 94-year-old mother. She is buried in Dallas's Grove Hill Memorial Park under the name "Blanche B. Frasure".[1][21] Her memoirs, My Life With Bonnie and Clyde (ISBN 0-8061-3715-0), were published in 2004, many years after her death.

Reaction to the film Bonnie and ClydeEdit

On April 10, 1968, at the 40th Academy Awards ceremony, Estelle Parsons won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Blanche in the film Bonnie and Clyde (1967). She was unhappy with the film. In an interview with author-historian John Neal Phillips on November 3, 1984, she said, "That movie made me look like a screaming horse's ass."[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barrow, Blanche Caldwell and John Neal Phillips. My Life with Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 24-35, 56, 109-22, 150, 271-78; Norman, Oklahoma/London: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004; ISBN 0-8061-3625-1
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 28, 2016. Retrieved 2014-06-23. 
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 14, 2016. Retrieved 2014-06-23. 
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  6. ^ Red River Plunge of Bonnie and Clyde: Collingsworth Pioneers Park, US 83 north side of Salt Fork of the Red River: Texas marker #4218 – Texas Historical Commission Archived November 28, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Knight, James R.. "Incident at Alma: The Barrow Gang in Northwest Arkansas", The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Arkansas Historical Association Winter, 1997), p. 401; JSTOR 40027888.
  8. ^ Jones, W.D. "Riding with Bonnie and Clyde" Archived March 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine., Playboy, November 1968; reprinted at
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  16. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  17. ^ Phillips, John Neal. Running with Bonnie and Clyde, the Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, pp. 140-45, 1996/2002; ISBN 0-8061-2810-0.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  19. ^ Barrow, Blanche, edited by John Neal Phillips (2004). My Life With Bonnie and Clyde. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press; ISBN 978-0-8061-3715-5, pg. 150
  20. ^ Blanche Barrow's Life After Prison Archived May 20, 2016, at the Wayback Machine..
  21. ^ "Blanche Caldwell Barrow". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 

Further readingEdit

  • Barrow, Blanche Caldwell and John Neal Phillips. My Life with Bonnie and Clyde. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004; ISBN 0-8061-3625-1
  • Phillips, John Neal. Running with Bonnie and Clyde, the Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996, 2002; ISBN 0-8061-2810-0

External linksEdit