The Untold Story of the Canadian Woman Who Became the West’s Most Notorious Bandit

Reviewed by Danielle Chartier

Posted March 11, 2023

Award-winning author John Boessenecker has written several books about Old West outlaws and lawmen. His recent book Wildcat is the well-researched story of bandit Pearl Hart, born Lillie Davy in Lindsay, Ontario.

Davy was born into a dysfunctional family, suffered poverty and abuse throughout her childhood, and was not the only member of her family who turned to a life of crime. Several of her siblings followed in her footsteps, although Lillie, as Pearl Hart, gained the most notoriety.

It is sometimes difficult to read of the traumas that Davy, her mother, and her siblings endured. Davy and her younger sister ran away at a young age to escape and to start a new life.

Lillie Davy eventually assumed the name Pearl Hart, made her way west, and, dressed as a man, became a stagecoach robber, leading to a manhunt and time spent in prison. Illustrations and photographs include images of Hart with her pet wildcat in the Tucson, Arizona, jail.

The book’s epilogue explores the “falsehoods and folklore” surrounding Hart’s legacy and mentions several books, movies, and television shows that have told her story. Most of what they portrayed was fictionalized, however, because nobody at the time knew Pearl Hart’s actual indentity. Boessenecker’s book Wildcat tells the fascinating true story of a woman who was determined to live life on her own terms in the rough and hostile Old West.

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This article originally appeared in the April-May 2023 issue of Canada’s History.

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