Alice Diamond “Diamond Annie” was the leader of an all-female gang in London that specialized in shoplifting (with a dash of blackmail). The gang spanned generations and operated from the late 1700s up through the 1950s. Annie ruled this successful enterprise sometime during the 1920s and 30s. Beautiful and deadly, she wore diamond rings as weapons and had specially made waistcoats chock full of secret pockets perfect for her career.

This gang was pretty impressive (also called the Forty Thieves.) There were a few men involved, but they had a very subservient role in the hierarchy. The well dressed women raided high-end stores in the West End and eluded the police for decades. They operated in groups of 2 or 3 and ran multiple sprees carefully conducted at the same time. Strategic! When a panic ensued throughout the city, the girls simply branched out to smaller towns.

Second in command was Maggie “Babyface” Hughes (who dropped her married name and went back to Maggie Hill). She was the sister of notorious gangster Billy Hill, an organized crime boss known for extreme violence. He ran a scam that defrauded London’s high society of millions of dollars through card games at the Clermont Club. Anyway- so Maggie had a long arrest record. She was once arrested after running out of a jewelers shop with 34 diamond rings. In 1938 she landed a heavier sentence for stabbing a policeman in the eye with a hatpin.

Brian McDonald, author of a  book “Gangs of London” wrote: “On the plus side, they threw the liveliest of parties and spent lavishly at pubs, clubs and restaurants. Their lifestyles were in pursuit of those of glamorous movie stars, combined with the decadent living of 1920s aristocratic flapper society. They read of the outrageous behavior of rich, bright young things and wanted to emulate them.”