Belle Starr was a gun-slinging, wild and unpredictable outlaw. Acquainted with the notorious Younger Gang, she turned to crime. Starr became known as the Bandit Queen.
When a husband died in the American Wild West, a destitute woman faced starvation. If she had money, she could return to the safety of the East Coast of America, or she could marry again.
For many, a woman’s only option was to become a saloon dance-girl. Some rose to become a brothel madam. Gunslinging females such as Calamity Jane, Pearl Hart and Annie Oakley starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Others, like Belle Starr, robbed trains or stagecoaches.
Glamorous Belle Starr
Gunslinging female, Belle Starr, frequently dressed in exotic feathers and velvet dresses. She could pass as a high-born lady, though she was just as comfortable in buckskin and moccasins.
Starr was born Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed. She set out to style herself as the feared ‘Bandit Queen’, changing her name to Belle Starr.
Gunslinging Female Outlaw
As a young woman, Starr’s frequent companions were the outlawed Younger Gang. A gang led by Frank and Jesse James.
The life of an outlaw looked glamorous to the young teenage girl. A vast contrast to the hard slog of working on a farm.
Starr’s older brother was a gun-toting bushwhacker. She backed her brother, who became a spy, before he was killed by federal troops.
Thomas Younger, a member of the Younger gang, fathered Starr’s first child. She then ran away with a Missouri outlaw, Jim Reed. As they never married, Starr was his common-law wife.
Following Reed’s death, Starr married Sam Starr, a Cherokee Indian. He was a long-time friend of the Younger Gang.
Their ranch was the favourite hideout for anyone running from the law. Starr ruled over visiting gangs with a strength and determination not usually attributed to females. She earned and enjoyed the reputation of being the Bandit Queen.
Starr was rough-talking, and the mastermind behind various outlaw activities. Her many talents included fencing, rustling, bootlegging, thievery, and bribery.
Robin Hood Mentality
The gunslinging female also exhibited a ‘Robin Hood’ mentality. She commandeered valuables from the rich and gave them to the poor.
Starr brandished her pistols as she strutted along the streets. She dealt severely with any who tried to perpetrate crooked poker games.
Gunslinging Female Imprisoned
Starr and her husband’s favourite weapon was the Springfield, Model 1873, Calvary Carbine. This gun was the first standard breach-loading weapon, issued to the American army.
Despite their well-armed arsenal, Starr and her husband weren’t able to evade the law. They were caught and arrested. Considering the ‘hanging judge’, Judge Isaac C. Parker sentenced them, they got off lightly. They spent only nine months in a federal penitentiary for horse stealing.
Starr was arrested again. She was caught robbing a Post Office, having disguised herself as a man. They arrested Starr two more times, but without conviction or imprisonment.
Gunslinging Female Brutally Murdered
Starr’s reign as the ‘Bandit Queen’ came to an abrupt end, following the death of her husband. She took on a new lover, but remained living at the ranch.
An unnamed assassin shot twice Starr in the back. She was only 40-years old. Her violent and unsolved murder soared her into national notoriety. The case remains unsolved.
Gunslinging Female Immortalised
The publisher of the National Police Gazette used the life of Belle Starr to gain his own notoriety. He published an unsubstantiated biography not long after her death.
He portrayed Starr as a beautiful Southern Belle who was a ‘female Jessie James’. A gun slinging female outlaw who set out to avenge the death of her debonair brother, a Confederate officer.
Determined And Dedicated
Many women find their life has ‘potholes’. While we don’t condone Belle Starr’s way of life, we must admire her determination and dedication to what she believed in. Instead of sitting in poverty, working hard on a farm, she set out to be someone with a unique voice.
We all have memories and dreams. Yesterday colours our present and influences our future. The true measure of greatness of a woman is how she reacts in the crucible of crisis.