Dan Conway’s Corner

Her real name was Mildred Elisabeth Gillars. She was 87 years old when she died of cancer of the colon on June 25, 1988 at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. None of her neighbours knew anything about her.

To them she was just a little reclusive old woman who taught music in the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus’s convent school.

Part of her past included being tried for treason in 1949 — for making Nazi propaganda broadcasts during the Second World War. She was sentenced to 10-to-30 years in prison, and fined $10,000. She could easily have been sentenced to death in the electric chair.

At her trial, with her long, silver hair, deep tan, tightfitting black dresses, scarlet lips and fingernails, and emotional outbursts, she had fascinated the public. The New Yorker’s Richard H. Rovere described her as having “the air of Mother machree, and she wears it in the manner of Rita Hayworth.”

Mildred Gillars spent 12 years in jail, though she became eligible for parole after ten. She elected to stay in prison for two further years, and was then released on parole after spending twelve years behind bars. Back she went to Ohio Wesleyan University, which she had left in 1922 without a degree. This time she did graduate, with a bachelor’s in speech.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own