On May 1, 1947, a young woman named Evelyn Francis McHale leapt to her death from the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observation deck. Four minutes after she plummeted to Earth and landed atop a United Nations Assembly Cadillac parked curbside on West 33rd Street, an amateur photographer named Robert C. Wiles captured her final repose. The now iconic image, first published in Life magazine on May 12 of that year, is called ‘The Most Beautiful Suicide’ and it’s for this—for her beauty and unnerving serenity in death—that Evelyn McHale has become known. Yet there was a woman behind that photograph. A woman who served her country in the Women’s Army Corps during WWII. A woman who couldn’t find peace, no matter how hard she tried.
What follows is a factional account of her final years and tragic death.
In the fall of 1943, at the height of World War 2, twenty-year-old Evelyn McHale joins the Women’s Army Corps in an attempt to bring some sense of order and discipline to her life, but her plans unravel when she meets fellow enlisted woman Grace Pennetta and falls passionately in love.