We most often think of the Victorian female offender in her most archetypal and stereotypical roles; the polite lady shoplifter, stowing all manner of valuables beneath her voluminous crinolines, the tragic street waif of Dickensian fiction or the vicious femme fatale who wreaked her terrible revenge with copious poison.
Yet the stories in popular novels and the ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ of the day have passed down to us only half the story of these women and their crimes. From the everyday street scuffles and pocket pickings of crowded slums, to the sensational trials that dominated national headlines; the women of Victorian England were responsible for a diverse and at times completely unexpected level of deviance.
This book takes a closer look at women and crime in the Victorian period. With vivid real-life stories, powerful photos, eye-opening cases and wider discussions that give us an insightful illustration of the lives of the women responsible for them. This history of brawlers, thieves, traffickers and sneaks shows individuals navigating a world where life was hard and resources were scarce. Their tales are of poverty, opportunism, violence, hope and despair; but perhaps most importantly, the story of survival in the ruthless world of the past.