Queen of the Burglars

The Scandalous Life of Sophie Lyons

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About the Book

Born in the mid-nineteenth century, Sophie Lyons was a master thief, con artist, blackmailer and smuggler. Much of her success as a criminal was due to the fact that she was fearless, reckless, sharp and cunning—everything a woman of her time was not supposed to be. As a young child, Sophie’s parents forced her to steal when she showed a talent for pickpocketing. Strong-willed and smart, she blossomed into a beautiful teenager who caught the eye of many men in the underworld of New York City. By the time Sophie reached her late teens she was married to her second husband—a notorious bank burglar named Ned Lyons—and was a professional criminal in her own right.
Despite her prominent place in crime history, Sophie Lyons has never been the subject of a full-length biography. This book chronicles Sophie’s fascinating and tragic life, from her beginnings as a criminal prodigy, through her ingenious escape from Sing Sing prison and her lifelong struggle with mental illness.

About the Author(s)

Shayne Davidson has more than 30 years of experience as a genealogist, illustrator and author. She investigates history through genealogical records, archival newspapers and vintage photographs and illustrations. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Bibliographic Details

Shayne Davidson

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 226
Bibliographic Info: 46 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8254-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4054-9
Imprint: Exposit Books

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Preface 1

Aliases and Nicknames 5

Introduction: The Queen of the Burglars 7

 1. A Thief Since the Cradle 13

 2. From Motherly Trauma to Motherhood 24

 3. Escape from Sing Sing 35

 4. Jealousy and Betrayal 42

 5. Attempted Suicide and Blackmail 47

 6. Accusations and Outrage 57

 7. Arrest After Arrest 66

 8. A Spy in the House 74

 9. Lost Children 84

10. In the Rogues’ Gallery 93

11. Queen Meets King 102

12. Take the Money and Run 111

13. The Heredity Theory 121

14. Transitions 131

15. Speaking Through the Press 138

16. Marriage and Memoirs 146

17. Fighting for Her Legacy 154

18. A Downward Spiral of Loss and Grief 161

19. Controversial to the End 168

20. Three Sisters 178

Epilogue 189

Chapter Notes 195

Selected Bibliography 211

Index 213