The woman who accompanied Harry "Pete" Pierpont, Mary Kinder managed to leave an imprint on the era. Through her early interviews with the Chicago Herald & Examiner, to her sessions with author John Toland during the writing of his book, "The Dillinger Days," and Joe Pinkston for "Dillinger: A Short and Violent Life." Mary told the first-person story. She also dabbled in broadcast media, with a radio interview she gave in the 1930's.
Out of necessity, Mary Kinder was a suspicious woman. After her arrest in Tucson, Arizona in 1934 with the gang, she developed a cynicism based on her belief that "everybody was crooked," as she phrased it. By this, she meant police, state prosecutors, witnesses, and every other figure involved in the wheels that turned the criminal justice system. It is hard to imagine that Mary could have been objective.
Mary fell in love with Harry Pierpont during the 1920s, when Harry went on trial with her brother, Earl "The Kid" Northern, for the robbery of a South New Harmony, Indiana bank. She attended the trial of Harry Pierpont and Earl "The Kid." Earl, a three-time loser, was in danger of being sentenced to life on the "habitual criminal charge," an option that judges once used to "throw away the key" on men they believed to be beyond rehabilitation. Earl "The Kid," while spared the "three time loser" conviction, was ultimately sentenced to prison, along with Pierpont. Together the two men did time in Jeffersonville, Pendleton, and finally, the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana.
When Mary visited Michigan City, it must have seemed like old home week. Her brother, Charles Thomas "Chuck" Northern, had also entered Michigan City as Inmate #13354 on October 4, 1927. He had been involved with bootleggers at the time of his earlier incarceration at the Indiana Reformatory, where he was received on September 10, 1925 as Inmate #15337. In addition to Charles, Mary's associates in Michigan City were: the husband of her sister, Margaret "Silent Margaret", or "Silent Sadie" Behrens, as she was also called. Mary's own husband, Dale Kinder, an ex-cop turned robber, was also incarcerated there.
With the October, 1933 escape of 11 convicts from the Michigan City Prison, including Harry Pierpont, Mary joined this desperate gang of escapees. Insiders say that she had kept the "Trigger Man" from losing his cool on many occasions. A letter in the FBI files indicates that she was possibly abused by him on at least one occasion, when he threw her out of his car and made her walk back to their hideout. After the sensational Tucson arrest, Mary was held in Indianapolis for one month while a Grand Jury tried to implicate her in the escape conspiracy. The charges were thrown out for lack of evidence, and Mary was freed.
In spite of the difficulty in loving the volitile Pierpont, she never entertained a thought of leaving him. She would remain loyal to him as he prepared to die in the electric chair at the Ohio State Prison. By then, she was giving interviews and participating in a carnival show devoted to stories of life with Dillinger. Yet she tried to shelter Pierpont, spending the money she earned to fund his useless appeal.
She lived until May 21, 1981, when she died of emphysema and heart disease in Indianapolis. During her lifetime, she never relived the excitement she knew in her days with Dillinger. She had struggled with alcoholism, which had started when she was running with Pierpont. Mary died penniless and is buried without a marker. Were she alive today, she could well be imagined on television, recounting her experiences for a whole new generation and an audience eager to hear her say, in her best Dillinger-speak, "You pay in the end and you keep on payin'. I ought to know."
- Ellen Poulsen, Don't Call Us Molls: Women of the John Dillinger Gang.
1. Did Mary Kinder have a baby?
Yes she did, although no information is available due to the closed records of adoptions. She is reputed to have given birth to a child during the 1920s, and to have given up the child for adoption. She acknowledged that she'd had a baby during the interviews given to the Chicago Herald & Examiner. She claimed the baby was born during her marriage to Dale Kinder, and that the child died.
2. What happened to Earl "the Kid" Northern?
Earl Northern missed the Michigan City prison escape due to consumption, which made him too sick to participate in the actual escape. He died of the dread disease in 1936, while still incarcerated.