History's Most Feared Female Outlaws, Who Were More Even Brutal Than Men

Pearl Hart

Born in Ontario, Canada, Pearl Hart’s life was changed when she saw Annie Oakley perform in Chicago, Illinois. Shortly thereafter, Hart saddled her mother with her two children and headed to the Wild West, giving herself the nickname “Lady Bandit”.

With musician Joe Boot, she robbed a stagecoach journeying from Globe to Florence, coming away with $380. A little guilty about leaving her victims broke, she returned a dollar to each one so they could eat. Pearl and Joe were ambushed in their sleep, arrested and taken to the Florence jail. She was paroled in December 1902, returned to Globe and married Calvin Bywater, whom she stayed with until her death in 1955.

Belle Siddons

Raised on a wealthy Southern plantation, Belle Siddons became a Confederate spy during the American Civil War at the age of 25 thanks to her good looks. Later, after moving to South Dakota, she fell in love with stagecoach robber Archie McLaughlin, eventually teaming up with him by using her beauty to coax information from stagecoach drivers.

Unfortunately for McLaughlin, he was later caught and hanged for his crimes. Distraught, Siddons turned to the drink. In 1881, she was arrested in San Francisco and was never heard from again.

Belle Starr

Belle Starr was an outlaw who mixed in the same circles as Frank and Jesse James. In 1880, she married Sam Starr, a part of the aptly titled Starr gang. Three years later they were convicted of stealing horses and spent nine months in a Detroit jail before returning to Cherokee territory.

Belle was known for carrying two pistols on her person at any time and wearing gold earrings. Perhaps her most famous attribute was her feathered hat, intended for a man. She was killed in 1889, and her murderer was never caught.

Etta Place

Next to nothing is known about Etta Place’s life prior to meeting Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, AKA the Sundance Kid. Even her name is considered to be a pseudonym. What we know for sure is she was born in 1878, likely in Texas. After meeting Longbaugh, they quickly got to work, robbing a bank of around $32,000, using the money to purchase a ranch house on the Blanco River in Argentina.

But their dogged pursuit by the law left with them with no choice but to go on the run. When Etta fell sick with appendicitis, Harry took her to San Francisco for treatment, after which she decided to stay in America. In 1906, with no intention of slowing down, Harry bid farewell to Etta. She, as far we know, vanished from records.

Rose Dunn

Rose Dunn was born in what is now Oklahoma in 1879. By age 12, her two brothers were already petty criminals. It was they who taught her to shoot, which would come in handy by the time she met George “Bittercreek” Newcomb in her mid-teens.

She supported her new beau in his evil deeds up until his killing, which she was accused of having set up. She denied it and was never prosecuted. Rose later married a politician called Charles Albert Noble and lived a regular, non-outlaw life until her death at age 76.

Eleanor Dumont

Eleanor Dumont, known as Madame Mustache, was a famous gambler during the Californian Gold Rush, particularly excelling in Blackjack. She fell in love with a cattleman named Jack McKnight and she eventually signed her property over to him. Unluckily for Dumont, McKnight was a conman. He sold the ranch and left her with all the debt. Dumont made quick work of him by tracking him down and shooting him dead.

She continued to hop about, working as both a dealer and prostitute. One night, after losing her fortune in a game, she committed suicide by drinking a bottle of red wine laced with morphine. Her body was discovered the next day on September 8, 1879.

Bonnie Parker

Bonnie Parker, of Bonnie and Clyde fame, is arguably the most famous female outlaw of her time. Despite showing promise in school, she fell into a world of crime after meeting Clyde Barrow in 1930. Together, they robbed their way across America for two years, unafraid of killing people in the process.

The couple was eventually killed by the police on a highway in Louisiana on May 23, 1934.

Lottie Deno

Lottie Deno was by all accounts from a well-to-do background but her true passion was in gambling, and quite frankly, probably also swindling. The way she handled a deck of cards bedazzled and irritated the down-on-their-luck Texans hoping to win big.

Regulars suspected Lottie of cheating but such was the level of her dexterity, nobody ever could catch her out.

Sally Scull

Sally Scull is best remembered as someone who had a taste for killing her husbands. While primarily a rancher, Scull was also a hot-tempered gunslinger who wasn’t afraid to cut people down to size. One husband woke her by pouring water over her head, so she shot him dead.

There’s one story of Scull accosting someone who had been badmouthing her. “So you been talking about me?” she said. “Well, dance!” Then she began shooting at his feet. It’s unknown what fate Scull met – some claim a later husband might have gotten the upper hand.

Cheng I Sao

Cheng I Sao, or the “wife of Cheng”, and corsair Cheng I oversaw one of China’s most feared pirate armies, made up of over 50,000 men. Mrs Cheng took full control after her husband’s death in 1807 and preyed on the shipping vessels of Southeast Asia.

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Rachel Wall

By most accounts, Rachel Wall was the first American woman to not only undertake piracy, but thrive at it. Born in Pennsylvania, Wall fled home in her teens and married George Wall. Constant money woes forced the couple into criminal activities.

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Helen Wawrzyniak

Helen Wawrzyniak looked like a kept woman by the age of 20, having already had two children. The problem was, those children were fathered by Lester Gillis AKA Baby Face Nelson.

Lester was shot dead in the “Battle of Barrington”, which Helen also took part in, but that didn’t stop the police from going after her instead. One of the era’s famous “public enemies”, Helen actually lived into old age, albeit behind bars.

Edna Murray

Edna Murray had a few nicknames under her belt, which often helps spread the message and fear of an upcoming outlaw. Two of them were “Rabbit”, thanks to her knack for breaking out of prison, and “The Kissing Bandit” thanks to her penchant for kissing her male robbery victims.

A member of the Barker Gang, Murray got locked up after a botched highway robbery in 1935. She was released on parole in 1940.

Mary Kinder

Shattering the tired cliché of women having no skill behind the wheel, Pearl Elliot served a getaway driver for the Dillinger gang, even helping them escape from Indiana State Prison (having smuggled in handguns for them to use).

In 1933, she was listed on the Chicago Police Department’s Public Enemies List after she shacked up with Harry Pierpont, another famous gangster at the time.

Grace O’Malley

Known as “Granuaille” thanks to her penchant for cutting her hair short, Grace O’Malley led a 20-ship fleet from the 1560s to the 1590s when her fleet was seized by British authorities.

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Mary Read

Before Read became a pirate she had already been a soldier and merchant sailor after taking on the name “Mark Read.” She wound up impressing Calico Jack Rackam’s crew and was invited onboard, where she befriended Anne Bonny and dropped the “Mark”.

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Helen Godman

Helen Godman cut her teeth in the 1910s as a human fly trap. Though married to singer Tell Taylor, Godman would seduce rich business types only to extort them for all their cash.

She managed to skip bail after her first arrest but failed to evade the law for too long, no thanks to her stealing $300,000 worth of jewellery in 1932.

Anne Bonny

Born to a well-to-do Irish lawyer, Anne Bonny moved to America in 1718, where she married a sailor whom she would later abandon for buccaneer “Calico” Jack Rackam. Bonny made tracks within Jack’s crew thanks to her ability to dish it out to anyone who crossed the line, including men.

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Phoolan Devi

Phoolan Devi was an Indian bandit who became famous for her revenge sprees on those who had abused her, organising the shooting of upper-class landowners. In 1983, she surrendered to authorities to avoid a death sentence. She ended up serving an 11 year jail sentence.

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Ma Barker

Kate “Ma” Barker was a rare breed: a highwaywoman. A member of the Barker gang, she broke the mould when it came to female outlaws, looting her way through Midwest America’s highways for close to a decade before she was shot dead alongside one of her children following a 1935 FBI raid.

J. Edgar Hoover called her “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.”

Stephanie St Clair

Stephanie St Clair, AKA Queenie, AKA Madame St Clair, was a French-African immigrant who paved her away against all odds near the end of the Prohibition era in the 1920s. She offered cheap lottery bets to the poor in Harlem, New York, running several impressive rackets.

Some of the profits went towards for political campaigns, including civil rights reforms.

Kathryn Kelly

Kathryn Kelly, wife to George “Machine Gun” Kelly, was responsible for the infamous kidnapping of oil tycoon Charley Urschel, who she held ransom for $200,000.

Though George had a pretty vicious reputation, it was his wife who was arguably feared more, thanks to her desire to kill Urschel even after the ransom was paid.

Arlyne Brickman

The Sicilian mafia was perhaps the most influential crime syndicate in New York’s bloody history. At the peak of their powers, Arlyne Brickman ran numbers for them, operating mostly as a loan shark and pusher.

She believed she had what it took to rise up the mob ranks but was derailed after her Jewish ancestry became apparent. In the end, she packed in gang life and became an informant, eventually ratting on notorious heavy Anthony Scarpati.

Mary O’Dare

After hooking up with gangster Raymond Hamilton, this “washerwoman,” as the Barrow Gang labelled her, made a pretty penny trafficking narcotics during the Roaring Twenties.

She ran in the same circles as Bonnie Parker and even tried to convince her to drug her beloved Clyde and run off with all his money - a proposition Bonnie would ultimately, fatefully, turn down.

Pearl Elliott

Brothels were Pearl Elliot’s business. In Kokomo, Indiana, a popular hideout for gangsters on the run, she set up shop, making a fortune from these stressed-out heavies in need of some ‘relief.’

She was, however, put on a shoot-to-kill list after serving as John Dillinger’s treasurer. In the end, it was cancer that killed Pearl.

Blanche Barrow

Blanche Barrow was married to “Buck” the elder brother of Clyde Barrow, of Bonnie and Clyde fame. Much to her annoyance, Buck joined Clyde’s gang, thereby making Blanche a fugitive through association.

In one getaway, she was blinded in her left eye while rescuing her husband from police gunfire. She eventually served six years in prison and remarried upon release.

Virginia Hill

Money laundering came naturally to Virginia Hill, a skill that seemed desperately needed having grown up in poverty in Alabama. Nicknamed the Flamingo and Queen of the Gangster Molls, she began a relationship with gangster Bugsy Siegel, who had no issue with Virginia using her good looks to extort money.

At one point, she even worked as Al Capone’s personal accountant.

Opal Long

Opal Long was a big girl. So big, in fact, she given the charming nickname “Mack Truck”. A de-facto member of Dillinger’s gang after marrying Russell Clark, Long was the housewife of the operation, making sure the hideout was sanitary and cooking meals for the whole outfit.

She and her husband were arrested separately in 1934. After earning parole a few months later she lived the rest of her life crime-free in Chicago.

The Pretty Pants Bandit

Though no photo exists of the Pretty Pants Bandit, she was known as an extremely attractive brunette with a habit of carrying two guns on her at all times. She made headlines in the early thirties for a series of petty robberies in which she’d ask rogue demands of shopkeepers.

After clearing out customers, she would shout “Take off your pants!”. While she was checking her makeup during one later robbery, a hostage managed to escape and get the police on her. She served three years in prison before vanishing altogether.

Laura Bullion

Laura Bullion was an infamous outlaw of the Wild West and member of Butch Cassidy’s “Wild Bunch” alongside the Sundance Kid, “Black Jack” Ketchum and Kid Curry. She and boyfriend Ben Kilpatrick spent their days robbing banks and trains.

Following a botched 1901 robbery, the couple was forced to lay low for a while, assuming new aliases: Mr and Mrs Benjamin Arnold. Nonetheless, the two were arrested in November of that year. Laura was released in 1905, while Ben had to wait until 1911, but a year later he was killed during a train robbery. Laura lived until 1961.