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How did a lovestruck English heiress become a notorious American criminal? And why has history erased her identity?

The Female Horse Thief by Paul Brown header image
The Female Horse Thief by Paul Brown header image
Photo: Mikael Kristenson

In the early part of the 19th century, an extraordinary young English woman crossed the Atlantic on a desperate quest to find her exiled lover. She stole a horse, escaped pursuers, and survived a shipwreck, then arrived penniless and alone in America, where she embarked on a gender-swapping, multi-identity crime spree as a horse thief. Her crimes caused outrage and bewilderment, and newspapers spread her legend across the country. She was captured and brutally punished but, as she sat silently in jail, her true identity remained frustratingly unclear. …

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