Thursday, September 15, 2011

Peggy Jo: The Cross-Dressing Bank-Robbing Cowboy

One of my many dream vocations, along with snake charmer and mad scientist, is bank robber. This article from Texas Monthly spins the tale of real-life Peggy Jo Tallas, the badass Texan who lived everyday life as a quiet, doting woman and secretly doubled as a bank robber disguised as a cowboy. She was so good at it, in fact, she never needed a weapon and wasn't caught for years.

I love stories about women criminals, partly because people suspect them less and thus they're able to get away with so much more than typical male criminals. I love the challenge female criminals pose to stereotypical women's roles. But Peggy Jo is even more interesting because she cross-dressed to perform her crimes -- she padded her figure, glued a fake beard on her chin and spoke in a low voice to disguise herself. And it worked. No one looked past the facade and suspected a woman beneath the man.

After reading this, I did some quick research to find more stories of cross-dressing female criminals, but was surprised there was really nothing else that could compare to Peggy Jo's adventure. It was interesting that so many results came up featuring criminal men who dressed as women, or women who dressed like military personnel in order to fight in past wars. Sadly, many results that came up were women executed for their "crimes" in the past: impersonating men and serving in the military, and charges of fraud and homosexuality for marrying other women and leading lives as men.

The only other cross-dressing female-to-male criminals I found were pirates like Mary Read and Ann Bonny, and all info concerning these ladies seems shrouded in mythology. There was a woman in Modesto who drew a not-so-great beard on her face when attempting to rob a gas station and another fake bearded lady who has been robbing Alabama banks recently. Tip of the day: if you're a lady looking to dress up as a man and rob a bank or store, it seems fake beards are the way to go.

Peggy Jo is a fascinating character, even besides the odd nature of her bank robberies. I loved the idea that even the tamest-seeming folk burn with something the article dubs "wild at heart," that while we have one identity, often we long for something completely the opposite. Fiction can't compete with stories like these.

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