Hart, Pearl (c. 1875–c. 1924)

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Hart, Pearl (c. 1875–c. 1924)

Canadian-born stagecoach robber . Born in Ontario, Canada, around 1875; died in Kansas City, Missouri, around 1924; married a man named Hart.

Oddly distinguished as the last person to rob a stagecoach in America, Pearl Hart was either a female desperado or a misguided angel of mercy, depending on the source. Born in Ontario, Canada, around 1875, she eloped in the early 1890s with a man by the name of Hart, whom she subsequently left behind in 1893. For several years, she roamed the Southwest and may have married a second time. She later took up with an unsuccessful mining prospector called Joe Boot.

It may have been Boot who talked Hart into robbing one of the last stagecoaches still operating in the Arizona desert, although in one version of the story, it was an urgent message that her mother was ill and needed money that prompted Hart to resort to crime. Whatever the case, in 1897 Hart and Boot held up the stagecoach outside of Globe, Arizona, netting a total of $431 from the four men aboard, whom they allowed to escape. Quickly apprehended by the local sheriff and identified by their victims, the thieves were carted off to jail, where Hart became something of a celebrity. She declared that it was unfair for her to be indicted, tried, convicted, or sentenced under a law that she, as a woman, had no hand in making. The jury, evidently agreeing, acquitted her while sentencing Boot to 30 years. The outraged judge, however, called for a retrial, and Hart was eventually found guilty.

Pearl Hart served two years of her five-year sentence at the Yuma Territorial Prison, receiving a pardon by the governor in 1902, due to "lack of accommodations for women prisoners." She then went to live in Kansas City with her sister who wrote a play about the incident, The Arizona Bandit. Some say Hart toured as its star. Others claim that the play was never produced, and that Hart spent the final days of her life running a Kansas City cigar store. She died around 1924.