Mary Frith was dubbed Moll Cutpurse for her expertise as a pickpocket. Many of the facts of her life are hard to pin down, mainly due to a sensationalised biography written shortly after her death.
A lusty but plain woman who dressed like a man, was often drunk and chain smoked, she had been born in the Barbican, London, in 1584. A thief at an early age, an uncle tried to get rid of her, once tricking her onto a merchant ship as crew.
Escaping, she joined a gang of pickpockets, doing the rounds of fairs. Caught, she went to Newgate Prison but bribed a guard. Released, she bought a house in Fleet Street, setting up as a fence, even advertising stolen goods in her window. Later, the house turned into a brothel and before her death in 1658, she could often be seen walking London, dressed as a man, a huge cigar in mouth, her Mastiff close by.
Click link, below, to return