Life story

The Wild and Real Story of Ma Barker

On September 14, 1892, 18-year-old Kate Clark married George Barker, 10 years her senior, which worried her parents. Of course, that only made her more eager to do it, note Chris Enss and Howard Kazanjian in “Ma Barker.”

George was working as a farmer at the time, but young Kate saw the promise of wealth if she stayed with him. Short, blue-eyed and dark-featured, George was quiet, according to Biography, and lacked the ambition Kate wanted, allowing him to dominate the relationship, the Kansas City Star notes.

In an FBI document, J. Edgar Hoover described George as lacking motivation. It wasn’t fair. Over the years, George has held several stable but low-paying jobs, mostly in corn and bean farming and in local mines. The couple’s first home, described by authors Chris Enss and Howard Kazanjian as “a ramshackle miner’s shack”, was not the luxury life Kate aspired to, but George promised he would turn it into a grand estate.

The couple had their first son, Herman, in 1894 (by Enss and Kazanjian in “Ma Barker”). He soon had three younger brothers: Lloyd was born in 1896, Arthur (nicknamed “Doc”) in 1899, and Fred in 1903. According to Enss and Kazanjian, Kate cared for the boys while George worked, although he managed to take them fishing and teach them how to shoot. During their marriage, George worked various odd jobs, including at the Crystal Springs Water Company (per The Famous People). But it was never enough for Kate.

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