The female horse-stealer: theatre broadside | State Library of New South Wales

The female horse-stealer: theatre broadside

'This extraordinary Female underwent some of the most singular vicissitudes that perhaps ever marked the career of woman. She was tried and condemned to death at Bury assizes in 1797; broke out of prison at Ipswich; was re-taken, sentenced again to death, and her punishment changed to tranportation for life. Retrieving her character in Australia, she distinguished herself in many new adventures; obtained a free pardon; and married a wealthy Settler, who left her sole mistress of an immense fortune.'

This sensational life summary is taken from the advertising broadside below. The play, Margaret Catchpole, the female horse-stealer, was adapted from Richard Cobbold's 1845 novel about the life of Margaret Catchpole. Both book and play were very popular, but were full of factual errors.

Margaret did not marry or become heir to a great fortune. In New South Wales she lived quietly and as a respected member of her community where she worked as a nurse, midwife and ran a small store at Richmond. It is now thought that some aspects of her life in the colony may have been confused with another prominent convict woman, Mary Reiby.

Margaret Catchpole, the female horse-stealer, or, The life and adventures of a Suffolk girl! [London : Victoria Theatre, 1845] Broadside MRB/ X7