This is devoted to tough-as-nails women that exposed the lie of being the weaker sex.
Belle Starr was an outlaw in the late 1800's, though her background would have made her the belle of any ball. Born in 1848 into a respectable Missouri family, Maybelle Shirley Starr attended a private school for young ladies, played piano, and received a classical education. Her father, John Shirley, was a businessman who helped to found the school she attended.
While growing up in Missouri, Belle knew of Jesse James and other outlaws with whom she later became associated with after her marriage in 1866 to her childhood sweetheart, Jim Reed. Reed was a restless young man who began farming in Texas but soon fell in with a group of outlaws called the Starr Clan. Jim was killed in 1874, leaving Belle with two small children. She acquired the Starr name after marrying Sam Starr.
Belle liked to dress fashionably, usually wearing a black velvet riding habit and plumed hat while riding side-saddle, as all well-bred ladies of that time did.
In 1883 she was arrested for horse theft and served nine months in jail. She avoided arrests for several other crimes committed mainly in the regions which later became Oklahoma. Her husband Sam Starr was killed in a shoot-out, and she then married one of his relatives who was 15 years younger than she was. By 1889 she was 40 years old and attempted to end her outlaw life by operating a farm she owned.
But it ended differently than she wanted. Two days before her 41st birthday, she was ambushed and shot to death while riding back from a neighbors house near Eufaula, Oklahoma. Nobody ever found out who shot her or why.
Few people had ever heard of Belle Starr during her lifetime, but she became famous after her death through a dime novel titles "Belle Starr the Bandit Queen, or the female Jesse James", which was first published in 1889. As with most novels and movies made about her, Belle's life story was exaggerated and distorted. She was not a beautiful outlaw "queen" who deserved a statue of her that was erected in Woolaroc Oklahoma. Her son Eddie was killed in a saloon and her daughter Rosie owned a bordello.
Belle traveled a looong way from that school for young ladies!
Then of course, you have Alwilda. She was a princess and the daughter of a Scandinavian King who just happened to take command of a company of pirates and roamed the Baltic in the 5th century. She fought a battle in the Gulf of Finland and eventually became the Queen of Denmark.
Lets not forget about Grace O'Malley. In the 16th century, she led a fleet of around 20 galleys on punitive raids against rival chieftains along the west coast of Ireland. From her base at Rockfleet castle, overlooking Clew Bay in County Mayo, she attacked and plundered passing merchant ships. This provoked such a storm of protest that the English Governor of the province sent an expedition to besiege her castle. She fought off this challenge in 1577, but was caught during a raid and imprisoned in Limerick for 18 months. She appealed to Queen Elizabeth 1, who was so impressed that she was granted "some maintenance for the rest of her living of her old years". She died at Rockfleet in her 70's.
Anne Bonney and Mary Read were famous as women pirates in the late 1600's and early 1700's. Both were illegitimate, poor at birth, and found early on that cross-dressing gave them more opportunities than they would have had should they reveal their sex. Both became members of Calico Jack Rackam's band of pirates when Rackam took over from Charles Vane. They both appeared to be just as violent as the men of the crew, participating fully in all of their activities. They were eventually caught and tried on 28 November 1720. Found guilty and sentenced to death, they then made the surprise announcement that they were "with child" and asked for the sentence to be stayed. Mary Read died in custody on 28 April 1721, while Anne Bonney gave birth and then disappeared, with her fate being a mystery. However, recent evidence has come to light which indicates that her father got her released and returned her back to Charleston, where she married a local man and eventually died in 1782 at the age of 84. Some say that these two were the inspiration for Defoe's Moll Flanders.
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