Mental Floss

Within a life of banditry, a pearl

By BY
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Pearl Hart (1871-1956*), aka The Lady Bandit of Arizona, acquired her legend as the last bandit to rob a stagecoach (though she wasn't--Ben Kuhl was), the only woman ever caught robbing one (also not true, there was Jane Kirkham), and maybe the only person in history to attempt suicide by ingesting talcum powder (this I can't refute). Though Pearl was raised in a well-off, conservative Canadian family, she had a weakness for bad boys and at seventeen became the spunky appendage to an abusive gambler and his afflicted ilk. In her new surroundings, she became a lively, crossdressing saloon singer who dreamed of moving West.

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Pearl's hardly the first female criminal to possess charm and attract supporters. My question to you is: have you ever empathized with a female criminal? Maybe you didn't go as far as pleading for a stay of execution--or hey, maybe you did--but maybe you've just secretly felt bad for this person. Or maybe you just liked Charlize Theron's portrayal of Aileen Wuornos (Nick Broomfield's two documentaries on her are good chasers).

*Various reports claim she either died in obscurity in San Francisco, or that she married a happy rancher and became Pearl Bywater.

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