Angel From Montgomery notes
An "Angel from
Montgomery" refers to a pardon for a prison sentence from the governor. It
is also used to refer to a last minute pardon from the death sentence. The
phrase originated in Alabama where the capital is Montgomery.
The way John puts it the woman is living in her own self made prison that she can't escape from, hence she needs a pardon (the angel from Montgomery).
from Great Days the
John Prine Anthology: "I had a buddy named Eddie Holstein in
Chicago who was a songwriter - he later became a club owner - and he wanted to
co-write with me. I'd just written Hello In There.
I said, "Eddie, that's all I got to say about old people. How about one about a middle-aged woman that feels older than she is?"
He said "Okay."
"I wrote the first verse, and he lost interest in her. A week later, I finished the thing."
"Eddie always used to tell people that I was writing about the Montgomery Ward building in Chicago, which has an angel on top that sticks out on a flagpole. I didn't know that, but that's where Eddie thought I got the idea."
"The woman, she's gonna keep fixing dinner, living in this house, staying married. She probably won't get up the nerve to leave the guy. But it's just that - a portrait of a lot of people who are doing that."
:: Legend says Prine was inspired by this statue on top of what was then the Montgomery Ward Building Near Larabee and Chicago next to the river.