She Robbed a Single Stagecoach, Became Infamous

The 'Bandit Queen' was a media sensation
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2016 12:59 PM CST
She Robbed a Single Stagecoach, Became Infamous
Pearl Hart was born to wealthy parents in Canada in 1871.   (Public domain/Wikipedia)

You've heard the story before—a girl is born wealthy, rebels and runs away as a teen, gets mixed up with drug dealers and pimps, and finds herself in and out of prison by 30. Only this story is more than 100 years old, and the woman, Pearl Hart, captivated a national audience not accustomed to seeing a female stagecoach robber, reports Time in its series on "the unsung women of history." Born in Canada around 1871, Hart had been sent to boarding school and soon chose a life of crime; she followed her first husband to Chicago, where she became obsessed with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which glamorized pioneer life. Before long Hart ran away with a piano player and by age 28 had hooked up with Joe Boot, a "down-on-his luck miner."

In May 1899, Hart dressed as a male and held up a stagecoach with Boot in Florence, Ariz. The duo made off with about $425 but were later found sleeping after a getaway by horse. Hart was ultimately acquitted in a highly publicized trial in which she was named the "Bandit Queen," but was subsequently found guilty of tampering with US Mail and sentenced to five years. She got out 18 months later when claiming to be pregnant, though apparently no child was born to her. Boot was given 30 years and managed to disappear just a year into his sentence. Some claim Hart lived a quiet life into her 80s, but for at least a little while she proved, as Time reports, that "a woman could be just as dangerous as a man." (More women's history stories.)

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