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Mary Frith, alias Moll CutpurseImage of Moll Cutpurse (Mary Frith), from Arthur Vincent. Lives of Twelve Bad Women: Illustrations and Reviews of Feminine Turpitude Set Forth by Impartial Hands. Boston: L .C. Page, 1897.
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The woman who murders her husband or her child may be described with either pity or disgust by the moralizing author who tells her story.  The writer, and the reader, reflect on the conditions or events that led her to sin and crime, and even the most lurid and titillating account never quite avoids evoking regret for her downfall.  Accounts of professional criminals, however, frequently display admiration and a savage enjoyment of the criminal's daring, cunning, or courage, for female criminals even more than male.  Mary Frith (c.1584–1659), better known as Moll Cutpurse, was a sensation within her own lifetime – a pickpocket and fence who dressed in men's clothing, she was the subject of two plays, John Day's 1610 Madde Pranckes of Mery Mall of the Bankside and Thomas Middleton's 1611 Roaring Girl.


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