Book General Admission
Margaret Brown illustration
  • Name: Margaret Brown
  • Age: Around 80 in 1898
  • Emigrated: To the US and lived in New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Toledo

Some of us Bad Bridgets were infamous, like the pickpocket Margaret Brown (aka Old Mother Hubbard). Disguised as an elderly lady, she terrorised department stores and train stations for fifty years. 

There’s not a jail on the East Coast I haven’t seen.

Daily News

17 October 1894

There’s not a jail on the East Coast I haven’t seen. Blackwell’s Island, Crow Hill, the Boston House of Correction, Joliet over in Chicago. I’ll never forget Joliet. In ’77 I sawed through the bars of my cell with a knife, then fell four storeys when my bedsheet rope gave way. I was up and thieving again as soon as I got out; needs must. More than half the girls I’ve met inside came from Ireland. They’re full of excuses. They’re only thieving and whoring because they have to. I’m cut from different cloth. I like what I do. I’m good at it. And I like nice things. Why should I toil away in a mill or shirt factory when I can just reach out and take what I want for free? Still, I’d have given up years ago, if I didn’t love the way hoisting makes me feel. In this world, no man tells me what to do.

I’ve been a pickpocket for fifty odd years. I’m the oldest woman criminal in the States. Playing the auld crone’s part of my act. Nobody looks twice at the elderly. That time I got two months in the House of Correction for lifting a handbag, the store clerk never noticed me. I looked like a sweet old grandma. Little did he know I’d a fine silk dress on beneath my cloak. That cloak’s full of pockets for hiding loot. Sometimes I drape it over a stranger’s valise so I can have a good hoke around in privacy. I keep it simple. I move around: city to city, all across the states. I lift small items in train stations and department stores: pocketbooks, watches and cash.

I have my technique down to a fine art though it’s getting harder every year. Since the papers started printing my picture, half the country’s looking for me. You’d think some officers have a personal vendetta. Like Detective Adams. I once stepped out of custody in New York and saw him standing there, saluting me. “How are you, Mag?” says he, bold as brass. He carted me back to Boston to do a stretch for thieving down there.

And Detective Thomas Byrnes included me in his book, Professional Criminals of America. Number one hundred and seventeen (of two hundred and four). Old Mother Hubbard’s how I’m listed, on account of my cloak, though I go by half a dozen aliases. Only eighteen of Byrne’s Criminals are women. To be honest I’m proud to be included. There’s only six Irish women named. I’ll be remembered for years to come. Folks will know that Margaret Brown did something with her life. That’s more than most of our lot can say."

This is an imagined version of what happened to me. It’s based upon the parts of my story that were recorded and ground-breaking research into other Bad Bridgets who lived in Boston, New York and Toronto from 1838 to 1918.