Friday, January 13, 2017

Women Outlaws of the Old West

By Miralee Ferrell

My recently republished book, Outlaw Angel (first published as Love Finds You in Sundance, Wyoming) has been optioned as a movie. No, that doesn't mean it WILL happen, but there's a chance. So in celebration, and since the heroine of the book was raised in an outlaw camp and took part in rustling cattle, I'm featuring women who were actual outlaws in the Old West. You may recognize
one or two and not others, but I had fun researching and learning about these unorthodox women.

First is Pearl Hart, a Canadian born in 1871. 
At the age of 17, she eloped to Chicago with gambler Frederick Hart. However, after suffering abuse at his hands, she left him at age 22. She migrated to Arizona and met miner Joe Boot. They couldn't make enough mining so they turned to common robbery. However, when Pearl was almost caught two times after luring men into her room so Joe could whack them over the head and rob them, they gave that up and tried their hand at robbing stage coaches. Pearl cut her hair short and posed as a man, and they successfully robbed one stage before they were caught. They took $400 total from the passengers, then returned a little of the money to each person, to assure they weren't completely broke.

At her trial Hart is famous for saying this phrase, "I shall not consent to be tried under a law in which my sex had no voice in making." Unfortunately, the judge didn't care and Hart was tried and convicted anyway.

Being the second woman to rob a stage coach and the first woman not to die doing it, she instantly became the most famous woman in Arizona.

Belle Siddons was a southern belle raised on a plantation. 
When the Civil War broke out, she used her good looks to work as a spy at the
age of 25. She was arrested and served 4 months, then was pardoned and released. Not long after, she married a gambler who taught her to play cards. She became a dealer until her husband died, then she followed the gold rush to South Dakota. She bought a saloon and gambling establishment where she changed her name to Madame Vestal and fell in love with an outlaw/stage coach robber.

Again, she used her skill and beauty to help her husband by working as a spy, getting information from drivers about future shipments. Unfortunately for her, she talked too much one time and let it slip that she had information ahead of time. Her husband was caught and hung, and she became a wandering drunk who died in jail. 

Credit: Ft. Smith National Historic Park
Outlaw Belle Starr with Deputy U.S. Marshal Benjamin
Tyner Hughes, at her arraignment in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

A much more well-known outlaw is Belle Starr. 
She was born in 1848 and died at the young age of 41 in 1889.
Myra Maybelle Shirley started dreaming of an outlaw’s life when Jesse James’s gang hid out at her family’s farm when she was a child, and she willingly joined her first husband when he enlisted in Thomas Starr’s lawless clan. After his death, Belle married Sam Starr, the son of her first husband’s criminal partner. Known for her dead-aim, velvet riding habit, and the ostrich plume she wore in her Stetson, Starr went out true to form: shot in the back while galloping away.

Rose Dunn (1878–1955) became an outlaw after her brothers taught her to ride, rope, and shoot when she was young. 
Dunn became an outlaw when she fell in love with George Newcomb, a member of the Doolin Gang. Dunn participated in the gang by providing them with ammunition and supplies when members could not go to town. When they joined George “Bittercreek” Newcomb’s band of outlaws, she quickly became the darling of the gang. She fell in love with Newcomb, and once saved him from a posse of U.S. Marshals. As he sat wounded, Dunn ran through open fire to supply him with ammunition, then held off the Marshals with shots from her rifle until he could limp to safety. Dunn’s brothers, who were bounty hunters, eventually turned Newcomb in and Dunn settled down with a politician.

Outlaw Angel, available in ebook and print.

Angel Ramirez has been on the run for years disguised as a boy. She wants a
fresh start, but can she learn to live like a lady? On the run from a dangerous outlaw, Angel works her way across several states disguised as a boy and working as a varmint tracker and horse wrangler. After taking a job on a Wyoming ranch owned by a bachelor and his widowed sister, she finally reveals her true identity and must fight to prove her worth as a ranch hand while somehow discovering her role as woman. 

Hiring a woman doesn’t sit well with Travis Morgan, and the dark-haired beauty is causing a ruckus among his cowboys. Just as Angel decides she’ll never be able to please her boss, an unexpected surprise arrives from across the ocean and makes trouble on the ranch. Will Angel leave with the person who’s come so far to claim her?

Miralee Ferrell is a best-selling, award-winning author with 20 books in print. 
She has three more books releasing during 2017. Her primary love is writing Old West romances, but has also branched out to writing children's fiction containing horses, adventure, mystery and family values. She has a brand new children's series for ages 6-8 releasing in February in the Kate's Friends series, starting with Kate's Big Dream. It is heavily illustrated with color pictures and will be available in both print and ebook. These early readers will then lead children on to the middle-grade series, Horses and Friends, with 5 books in the series and one more coming. 


  1. Miralee, I had not heard about these women outlaws of the old west. Very informative and great post. The best to you for Outlaw Angel to become a movie. I believe it would be a hit as so different than other movies.

  2. Hi Miralee. Thanks for sharing this post about these outlaw women. The only woman I knew was Belle Starr. Many, many years ago Jane Russell portrayed Belle in a movie titled Montana Belle. I always loved westerns and I hope to see Outlaw Angel become one!

  3. Miralee, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about these women of days gone by. What characters! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you so much, ladies. I'm excited about the option on Outlaw Angel and hope it one day comes true!

  5. Congratulations on the movie option! And I think I'm glad I don't have to worry about running into any of these women LOL.

  6. I'd only heard of Belle Starr. Very fascinating. Praying the movie is made. That's so cool.