Girl gangsters of 19th century Manhattan

When you think of the criminal gangs of New York in the 1800s, ruthless young men probably come to mind.

But these gangs had female members as well, some of whom were notorious fighters.

There was Hell-Cat Maggie, a member of the Irish-American Dead Rabbits in the 1850s. Her home base was the Five Points slum, near today’s City Hall. Supposedly her teeth were filed into sharp points and she clawed rivals with brass fingernails.

Another was Sadie Farrell, aka Sadie the Goat. Reportedly she robbed East Siders by first head-butting them in the stomach. In the 1860s she joined the Charlton Street Gang, river pirates on the West Side.

Ida Burger, called Ida the Goose, was a prostitute and Lady Gopher, part of the Gophers of Hell’s Kitchen. In the 1910s she was lured away to the Lower East Side’s Eastman Gang, led by Monk Eastman, but eventually went back to the Gophers after a bloody shootout.

The illustration above, from the New York Public Library, depicts tough chicks rumming it up at a Five Points tavern in the 1870s.

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9 Responses to “Girl gangsters of 19th century Manhattan”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Romance in the Lower Depths…nice, but I’m sure they’d kick my ass as they wiped the floor with me.

  2. Nabe News: December 2 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] Maggie, Sadie Farrell, and Ida the Goose, all girl gangsters of New York in the 1800s [Ephemeral […]

  3. Andrea Cremer Says:

    love this post

  4. cityofstrangers Says:


    Now that would have been a hell of a bar!

  5. Top Posts — Says:

    […] Girl gangsters of 19th century Manhattan When you think of the criminal gangs of New York in the 1800s, ruthless young men probably come to mind. But these […] […]

  6. Girl Gangsters Of 19th Century Manhattan : Just Plot Says:

    […] had female members, some of whom were notorious fighters. I came across this fascinating snippet at Ephemeral New York, and given all the hoop-la around Gangs Of New York when it came out, I can’t believe that […]

  7. I.B.Bubba Says:

    That would be some ‘Summers Eve’ commercial-

  8. brandycavalli Says:

    Reblogged this on The Pen Hustle and commented:
    A look into female gangsters of the 19th century & how they dominated in the underworld during a time when women were considered inferior to men.

  9. Two 19th century slums known as “Battle Row” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] seems to have also been the name of a saloon on that block operated by Mallet Murphy, one of the “Lady Gophers” and a notorious female […]

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