There are many versions of Pearl Hart’s life story. Some say she and her younger sister ran away from their home in Canada while in their teens and spent time in Chicago. Others say they crossed the country to Walla Walla, Washington, before settling in Chicago, or Kansas City. Still others say that her parents, unable to harness the girl’s energies, put her in boarding school in Kansas City, where she met Frederick Hart and eloped.
Whatever, the truth of her early life, most stories agree that she was petite and attractive. And all of them note that she was abused by her husband, eventually leaving him to seek her fortune in the Wild West.
Again stories vary, but it seems that in 1899, she got word that her mother was dying. She wanted to go back east to visit her one last time but had no money. She had, by this time, taken up with a man known only as Joe Boot. She and Joe decided to rob the stagecoach.
Pearl dressed in Joe’s clothes, and the two of them held up the stage, taking around $450 from the driver and riders. However, they were now on the run, and it wasn’t many days before they were apprehended.
In jail, Pearl reveled in the role as the “lady bandit,” giving autographs to all who came to see her. On Oct. 2, 1899, she and a male prisoner escaped, but she was soon in custody again.
In Nov. 1899, a jury acquitted Pearl. This infuriated the judge who accused her of “flirting with the jury.” He empaneled another jury to try her on another charge. This group sentenced her to prison. While there, she became quite a celebrity.
After she was paroled, there are again various stories of her owning a cigar store and starring in a one-woman show about her exploits. She was arrested again in 1904 for buying stolen canned goods. After that, no one knows exactly what happened although it is generally believed that she lived until the 1950s.