Rebecca Hesse chronicles the untold stories of women bootleggers during the Prohibition era. As alcohol became banned in the US, many women seized the opportunity to delve into the profitable world of contraband liquor, often overshadowing their male counterparts. From the iconic Gertrude “Cleo” Lythgoe to Mary Dowling, these women displayed resilience, wit, and innovation, leaving a remarkable mark on history.
- Contrary to the belief that women weren’t involved in the bootlegging scene, historical accounts suggest that for every male bootlegger, there were five women involved, using their clothing and legal restrictions to hide and transport alcohol.
- Gertrude “Cleo” Lythgoe became an icon in the rum-running scene by moving Scotch whisky from the Bahamas to the US. She was successful until a shipwreck and a jinx belief led her to quit at the height of her career.
- Mary Louise Cecilia “Texas” Guinan transitioned from silent movies to become the “Queen of the Nightclubs” during Prohibition, hosting celebrities like Babe Ruth and even royalty.
- Besha “Bessie” Starkman-Perri and her partner Rocco Perri created a bootlegging empire in Canada that challenged the likes of Al Capone. Despite her strategic mastermind behind the operation, Starkman’s life was cut short by a mysterious murder.
- “Spanish Marie” Waite continued her rum-running operations between Cuba and Florida even after her husband’s death, always managing to outsmart the law and continuing her ventures after Prohibition. She later became Florida’s first woman auto mechanic, highlighting women’s capability to excel in any field.