The Forty Elephants All-Girl Gang

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Did you think Victorian women were meek and demure? Some of them may have been but others could hold their own in London's rough and tumble underworld. The Forty Elephants were a kind of ladies' auxiliary to the Elephant and Castle Gang, a villainous group of male thieves.
"Many a husband lounged at home while his missus was out at work, and many an old lag was propped up by a tireless shoplifting spouse. Some of these terrors were as tough as the men they worked for and protected," said Brian McDonald, who uncovered details of the criminals when researching for his new book, Gangs of London.

The all-female Forty Elephants ran a large shoplifting operation in London and environs in the 1870s through the 1950s although they may have been organized as early as the 1700s. Their clothes were equipped with specially made pockets in which they could secret stolen goods. They were clever, well organized, devious and daring. They outran the police in high powered cars and partied hard.

Link - Via Clusterflock

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Better methods of retail theft detection, stronger enforcement and stiffer sentencing may have led to their demise. Their male counterparts, the Elephant and Castle gang were forced out by the Sicilian mob. Perhaps this also had an effect.
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