When we talk about gangsters and criminals, we automatically think about characters like Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel or John Gotti dressed in dapper suits, carrying huge weapons and ruling the dark underbelly of a city with an iron fist.
Yes, the world of criminals has mostly been a male-dominated one and although women have been part of many gangs for centuries, the idea of a famous woman gangster or an all-woman gang has been a rarity. And one example of such an aberration can be the Forty Elephant gang, an all-woman gang that terrorized London between the 19th and nearly half of the 20th century.
They were master shoplifters. Emerging from the poverty-stricken underbelly of London’s slums, these glamorous women plundered fashion stores, jewelry shops and even dabbled a lot in blackmail and extortion. Named after the district Elephant and Castle, in which they operated, the gang was also known for their distinct ‘elephant-like waddle’ when leaving the scene of the crime.
At their peak, they became one of the most organized gangs to operate in London under their leader Alice Diamond, aka ‘Diamond Annie’ or ‘the Queen of the Forty Thieves’. Under Alice, the gang were renowned, and feared, as the country’s first all-female crime syndicate.
Police reports of those times mention of clothing and jewelry worth thousands of pounds being stolen in a single swoop without even a single member of the gang getting caught. The detectives had a very frustrating time with no leads what so ever to pursue.
The gang was finally beaten in the 1950s by which most of their leaders were either caught or killed in police encounters. But despite that, they managed to leave an indelible mark in history as one of the most ruthless and infamous women gangs of all time.