He Had It Coming: Four Murderous Women and the Reporter Who Immortalized Their Stories
Beulah Annan. Belva Gaertner. Kitty Malm. Sabella Nitti. These are the real women of Chicago.
You probably know Roxie and Velma, the good-time gals of the 1926 satirical play Chicago and its wildly successful musical and movie adaptations. You might not know that Roxie, Velma, and the rest of the colorful characters of the play were inspired by real prisoners held in “Murderess Row” in 1920s Chicago—or that the reporter who covered their trials for the Chicago Tribune went on to write the play Chicago.
Now, more than 90 years later, the Chicago Tribune has uncovered photographs and newspaper clippings telling the story of the four women who inspired the timeless characters of Chicago. But these photos tell a different story—and itʼs not all about glamour, fashion, and celebrity. They show a young mother in jail hugging her two-year-old daughter. They show an immigrant woman who doesnʼt speak the language of her judge, jury, and attorney. And they show women
who used their images to sway public opinion—and their juries.
He Had It Coming collects recently discovered photos, original newspaper clippings, and stories from Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins as well as new analysis written by Tribune film critic Michael Phillips, theater critic Chris Jones, and columnists Heidi Stevens and Rick Kogan to build a fascinating history of women in crime in Jazz Age Chicago, a history that takes on new meaning in today’s #MeToo moment.
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