Within a life of banditry, a pearl

Becky
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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.

When a series of disappointments conspired to grant her this wish, it wasn't quite so sanguine. While working in a coal mine, Pearl met a miner named Boot who agreed to help execute the robbery--her first and last--so that she might be able to cover medical expenses for her ailing mother. dThe two were caught and Pearl was sentenced to five years in jail (she only ended up serving eighteen months) but not before retorting to the judge that "'I shall not consent to be tried under a law in which my sex had no voice in making.'" When the first jury came back with an acquittal, the judge demanded a new--and all male--jury, and this one capitulated with a sentence.

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.

October 5, 2007 - 2:43pm
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