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Female thieves, and youngsters being exploited

Published November 12. 2011 09:01AM

A writer said the young woman "majored" in horse thievery, once leaving hundreds of pursuers in the dust with her fleet-footed mustang during one caper.

The 18-year-old brunette was also described as being "perfectly beautiful." She was sometimes accompanied by a companion, "a flashily-dressed young man who is also handsome." The pair worked the town of Mount Pleasant and the surrounding area.

In one instance, another couple drove into town to visit relatives, hitching their horse and buggy near the house. When they were about to leave, they found that their rig, valued at $350, was missing. Smaller footprints in the soft dirt indicated it was a woman, fueling suspicion it was the young beauty.

In another case, the Bonnie and Clyde-type suspects stopped at a farmhouse and asked for something to eat. The farmer, however, recognized their horse and buggy as fitting the description of a rig that had been stolen.

The couple quickly drove away. A band of farmers and livery workers joined forces with members of the state constabulary. The 300-man posse embarked on an 80-mile "chase over the hills of Westmoreland and Fayette counties" in pursuit of the culprits.

The posse closed to within a quarter-mile at one point, but that was the closest they came.

"She flew like the wind on the back of the fleet-footed mustang," one reporter said of the woman thief. "She laughed at the farmers and police when they fired a volley of shots after her. None of the bullets took effect."

She wasn't the first female horse thief to make herself known in that region. Twenty-two years earlier, a 17-year-old named Etta Robinson, made a number of visits to the Putnam County (W. Va.) jail for stealing horses. She also made an equal number of escapes, once by wearing men's clothes.

Etta was also described as "handsome and intelligent.

"Her only motive in stealing is her love of adventure," a reporter stated.

Although both these women seemed to thrill in duping and outrunning authorities through their excellent horsemanship, there were some young girls closer to home who were taken from the streets and exploited as "white slaves."

On Oct. 11, 1911, the Tamaqua courier reported that girls were being recruited in Schuylkill County for prostitution in Philadelphia. In one case, Mary Lichtenberg, 16, of Allentown told how she was approached by a man while attending the funeral of a relative in Tamaqua.

Offering her "secure employment" in Philadelphia, the man handed her a letter of reference from Ellen Jones, who was later found to be "the keeper of a disreputable house."

The girl's story to authorities led to the arrest of Jones and her husband.

"Detectives have been working through this section for some weeks in an effort to locate agents of the traffic, which is known to exist," the courier reported. "Girls of tender age, lured to the city by promises of employment, are directed to houses of ill-fame and then held in slavery."

Another sad story of two Shenandoah females being exploited for crime was reported just after Thanksgiving. The girls, just 11 and 12 years old, told how they had been "put up" to steal by Mrs. Annie Rogers of Shenandoah, who the courier said acted as the "fence" (a middleman between thieves and the eventual buyers of stolen goods).

Both motherless girls told a Schuylkill County court how Rogers would pay their fare for "looting trips" to Pottsville. They admitted to shoplifting women's clothing and shoes in a number of stores. One girl estimated "cleaning up about a hundred dollars worth of goods" in three looting trips.

When the girls returned to Rogers with the goods, they were given 15 cents or a quarter, depending on the value of the haul they made. Some of the goods were later found in the Rogers home by local and state police.

After the girls were released, it was decided to send them to the House of the Good Shepherd in Reading for their own safety and await the trial of Rogers against whom they were expected to offer key testimony.

The two Shenandoah girls were just pre-teens but they weren't the youngest thieves in the coal regions. Five months earlier, 8-year-old Anna Garry of Wilkes-Barre was arrested for robbing six houses near her home in a week.

After an hour of questioning by police, the girl confessed to sneaking into the houses when the residents were away. She then hid her plunder under several porches, including her own home.

The loot included seven silk dresses, a bank (with a considerable sum of money), two pocketbooks (one containing $3 and the other with $1.50); two umbrellas, two white parasols, a red sweater, three pairs of silk stockings, three rings, five stickpins, a gold-handled umbrella and a shirt.

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