Saturday, January 19, 2019

Introducing Pearl Hart, Female Outlaw

The story of Pearl Hart begins much in the same way that the legend of Big Nose Kate began. Both were foreign born... Kate was born in Hungary in 1850, and Pearl was born in the not so far away country of Canada in 1871. And both Kate and Pearl became bored with school life, and turned into drifters while in their early teens. Pearl got her last name when she married at the age of 17 to a gambler named Frederick Hart. Then it was off to Chicago for a while until Frederick became so abusive to her that Pearl had to leave him at the age of 22.

Also in a similar fashion to Big Nose Kate, Pearl soon found her way to Arizona. There she met a miner named Joe Boot. But Boot was not making all that much money as a miner, and the two of them decided to turn to robbery as a source of income. Their first scheme involved Pearl luring men into her room where Joe would be hiding. When the naive victim entered, Joe would whack him over the head and rob him. They almost got caught a few times, so they figured that they should try another approach to this robbery thing. So they decided that there was money to be had by robbing stagecoaches. More money, less risk. Or so they thought.

Their plan involved Pearl cutting her hair and posing as a man. Joe Boot would rob the driver while Pearl would rob the passengers. Not wanting to leave the passengers in a perilous situation with no money at all, they decided to give back enough cash to them for food and hotel expenses in the next town. The operation went well, and they boldly rode away into the desert. But the problem was that they got lost that night and just rode around in circles, which made it easy for the sheriff and his posse to find them the very next day just a few miles out of town.

Pearl was convicted of her crime, but was released from prison after only eighteen months because the facilities there at that time were not really equipped to accommodate women. I'm not sure, but that's likely where the
relationship between Pearl and Joe Boot ended. But Pearl Hart instantly became the most famous woman in Arizona by being the second one to rob a stagecoach, and the first one to NOT get killed while doing it. She also became very popular with the news journalists who wanted photos of her posing with her gun.

At one time, Pearl had linked up with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show for a short stretch. She supposedly had also run a cigar store in Kansas City in 1904. And then she just sort of ducked out of sight... from the law and the general public.

The reports of her death vary. One account claims that she died in Globe, Arizona in 1955. Another story says that she lived until 1960.

While we cannot be sure of the accuracy of some of the narratives about her, I do find the legend of the outlaw woman Pearl Hart to be an interesting one, at least.

Additional Reading: 10 Notorious Female Outlaws From the Wild West

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