10 Notorious Female Outlaws From the Wild West
1. Pearl Hart
Born in Lindsay, Canada in 1871, Hart attended an exclusive school. However, she enjoyed adventuring more than school work. At age seventeen, Pearl eloped to Chicago with gambler, Frederick Hart. But, Frederick was abusive and Hart left him at age Twenty-two. She made her way to Arizona where she met miner, Joe Boot. When Boot couldn’t make enough dough from mining, the lovers turned to robbery. They developed a routine where Hart would lure a man into her room, and, once through the door, Boot would whack the unsuspecting gentleman on the head and rob him. However, this play was risky and the couple were almost caught on several occasions. In 1899, Hart developed a plan to rob a stagecoach. More money, less risk.
Hart cut her hair and dressed as a man. Boot held up the driver, while Hart took over $400 from the passengers. After giving a little back to ensure the victims had enough money for food and a hotel, Hart and Boot rode gallantly away into the sunset, only to get lost in the desert. After several days of wandering, they desperately needed sleep, but when they woke the sheriff and his posse had found them. They were caught a mere three miles from the scene of the crime. It was while she was being tried for her crimes that Hart is famous for saying this feminist phrase, "I shall not consent to be tried under a law in which my sex had no voice in making." Unfortunately, the judge didn't care and Hart was tried and convicted anyway.
Being the second woman to rob a stage coach and the first one not to die while doing it, Hart instantly became the most famous woman in Arizona. Journalists came from all over to interview Hart and photograph her with her gun. Hart received a pardon after 18 months. The official reason was that the penitentiary did not have accommodations for women, although rumor had it that Hart was pregnant and the judge didn't want to have to explain how that happened. Hart later had a brief stint in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, but lived the rest of her life low key.
2. Laura Bullion
Bullion was born into a life of crime. Her father was a bank robber, and Bullion, after spending her teenage years as a prostitute, joined the Wild Bunch Gang and became known at the “Rose of the Wild Bunch”. Bullion sold stolen goods and made connections that kept the bunch in steady supply of horses. She was romantically involved with several members of the gang, on and off. On certain occasions she dressed as a man and joined the rest of the gang in train robberies. In 1901, she was arrested with $8,500 worth of stolen banknotes in her possession. When she was released from prison, Bullion retired from her life of crime and became an interior designer in Memphis, Tennessee. Bullion died of heart disease in 1961. Her gravestone is embossed with a rose and thorny vines and reads “The Thorny Rose.” Bullion was the last surviving member of The Wild Bunch Gang.
3. Madam Vestal
Born and raised on a wealthy southern plantation, Belle Siddons was the definition of a Southern beauty. During the Civil War, she employed her good looks and became a confederate spy at twenty-five. She was caught and imprisoned, but pardoned after four months. She later married a gambling man who taught her to play cards. Finding that she was naturally good at the game, Belle became famous as a dealer of the game 21. When her husband died, Siddons followed the gold rush and set up shop in South Dakota. As owner of her own dance hall, bar, and gambling establishment, Siddons changed her name to Madame Vestal. It was in her establishment that she met and fell in love with stage coach robber, Archie McLaughlin. Once again, Siddons used her skills and beauty to become a spy and retract information from stagecoach drivers which she then passed on to her lover. Unfortunately, Siddons’ confidence got the best of her and one night she let slip that there was going to be a robbery. McLaughlin was caught, tried and hung, and Siddons became a wandering drunk who would eventually die alone in jail.
4. Rose Dunn
Born in Oklahoma in 1879, Dunn became an outlaw when she fell in love with George Newcomb, a member of the Doolin Gang. Dunn participated in the gang by providing them with ammunition and supplies when members could not go to town. Once, Dunn saved Newcomb when he was wounded by U.S. Marshals. She dodged open fire and held off the Marshals with her own rifle until he could get to safety. Dunn’s brothers, who were bounty hunters, eventually turned Newcomb in and Dunn settled down with a politician.
5. Sally Scull
Sarah Jane Newman was born tough. Born in 1817 to one of the first families to settle in Austin territory, Scull grew up having to defend her family’s land from constant attack. Her mother, Rachel Newman, once cut off the toes of a Comanche Indian who was trying to get through their front door. Inheriting her mother’s spirit, Scull became notorious as a male-dressing, gun-slinging, horse-trading woman. Twice a year she would make the treacherous trip alone to Mexico and come back with horses she probably stole, but no proof could be found. She’s also rumored to have killed two of her five husbands.
6. Big Nose Kate
Mary Katherine Haroney was born into a wealthy family with devastating circumstances. Kate’s parents died when she was fourteen and she was placed into a foster care system. Kate ran away from her caregiver and went on to marry a dentist. When her husband died, Kate moved to Texas and became a dance hall girl and prostitute. This is where she met Doc Holliday. Kate spent the next several years acting as Holliday’s sidekick as she followed him across the country. She is famous for burning down a building to release Holliday from incarceration.
7. Belle Starr
Born in 1848 to a prosperous family in Missouri, Myra Maybelle Shirley should have become a proper young lady, married a rich man, and never done anything interesting in her life. But, as luck would have it, Starr preferred to be outdoors learning to shoot a gun with her older brother, Bud, than stay inside the all-girl’s school she attended.
Fate changed the stars for Starr when her family moved to Texas in 1864. It was here that she would met members of Jesse James’ crew, the James-Younger Gang. In 1866, Starr married a horse thief named Jim Reed, who, in 1869, murdered a man who was said to have killed his brother. After the murder, the couple fled to California together. Jim was shot to death in 1874. Left as a widow, Belle joined the Starr Clan and married Samuel Starr. It was then that she submerged herself in outlawry. She became the mastermind behind the gang. Starr was arrested several times, but it seemed she was just as good at eluding sheriffs as she was at stealing horses, they never had enough evidence to put her away. In 1889, Starr was shot in the back while riding home from the general store. Her murderer is still unknown.
8. Etta Place
Most well-known as Butch Cassidy’s girlfriend and, later, Harry Longabaugh’s (the Sundance Kid) wife, Etta Place is surrounded by mystery. Historians know that she was a sweetheart to the Wild Bunch Gang, that she assisted Cassidy and Longabaugh in certain heists and fled with them to Argentina, but her exact identity and life after Longabaugh’s death are mostly unknown. Theories have suggested that she and Ann Bassett, one of the famous, cattle-rustling Bassett sisters, were one and the same because of similar looks and their ties to the Wild Bunch Gang.
9. Eleanor Dumont
Perhaps born in New Orleans to Creole parents around 1829, Dumont’s early life is not well-known. What is known is that she appeared in Nevada City, opened up a gambling house and immediately enticed men with her good looks and even better manners. Dumont fell in love with conman Jack McKnight who stole her money and sold her ranch. Dumont tracked McKnight down and shot him dead. After that, she returned to gambling. She became plump and a thick line of hair began to grow on her upper lip, earning her the nickname Madame Mustache. After that, Dumont’s fortunes continued to dwindle. In 1878 she lost $300 of borrowed money in one night of gambling. She was found dead the next morning.
10. Bonnie Parker
Born in 1910 in Rowena, Texas, Parker grew up to be a bright student with aspirations to become an actress. But everything changed when nineteen-year-old Bonnie met twenty-year-old ex-con, Clyde Barrow. The two fell immediately in love and Bonnie joined Clyde’s gang to become a full-time thief and murderer. Bonnie and Clyde embarked on a two-year crime spree that crossed five states and killed thirteen civilians. They died in an ambush led by Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer, in 1934. During a brief stint in jail, Bonnie wrote a poem that foreshadowed their fate: “Someday they’ll go down together/ And they’ll bury them side by side/ To few it’ll be grief/ to the law a relief/ but it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”