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In Plainville, Arkansas, Esmeralda is a cook at her fiancé Elmer's wayside diner, the Bon Ton Lunch Room. When Esmeralda goes to the bank to deposit two dollars and to secure a new mortgage for the Bon Ton, she emerges from the file room and interrupts an armed holdup. Swooning, she inadvertently hits a button and releases tear gas, which forces the thieves to flee. The gangsters report to their boss, Flash, that they were forced out by a big, red-haired "tiger" woman. In Chicago, meanwhile, free-lance press agent Richard Wiley, called "Windy," is down on his luck and is badly in need of a client. When he reads of Esmeralda's exploits in the paper, he and his depressed wife Francine travel to Plainville to capitalize on Esmeralda's local notoriety and make her a celebrity anti-crime spokeswoman called "The Tiger Woman." In the now-crowded Bon Ton, Windy and Francine convince Esmeralda that under Windy's tutelage, she will be able to pay off Elmer's mortgage, and she agrees to go to Chicago. There, Esmeralda memorizes Windy's speech for a lecture circuit and leads women in forming anti-crime groups. Eventually, Esmeralda and her league of women begin to put a dent in the racketeering efforts of Flash's gang, who then resolve to wreak vengeance on her. Esmeralda tires of life without Elmer, however, and when she fails to appear at her Washington, D.C. lecture, Windy tells the press that Esmeralda has been kidnapped by gangsters. Then, at Francine's suggestion, Windy flies to Plainville and finds Esmeralda with Elmer. Esmeralda agrees to go into hiding until the press runs the kidnapping story. Flash then calls a meeting of every gangster in town at a warehouse and offers $30,000 to Esmeralda's kidnapper on condition he give her to him. Two of his own men then enter and whisper to Flash that they have kidnapped Esmeralda themselves. A fight ensues as gangsters accuse each other of the kidnapping. Meanwhile, Elmer, Windy and Francine bring a reporter and photographer to Esmeralda's hideout in an attempt to stage a rescue for publicity purposes, but when she is discovered missing, the press and the police deem the kidnapping a hoax. The gangsters take Esmeralda to Flash's apartment, where, in admiration of her bravery, Flash makes love to her, proposing that she take the place of his gun moll Mamie, who was recently hanged. Esmeralda, paralyzed with fear, is taken to the warehouse to organize the gangsters as she organized her crime fighters. The only speech she knows is Windy's, and when she delivers it to the men, they are brought to tears in remorse and disarm themselves. Esmeralda then leads the men to the police station, where Windy and Francine are trying in vain to get the police to search for Esmeralda, and the men turn themselves in. Esmeralda and Elmer then return happily to the Bon Ton.