The All-Women Gang Known As the Forty Elephants Gang

One afternoon in 1915, a group of elegantly dressed women arrived in hired cars at the prestigious Selfridges Department Store in London. They were dressed in furs, jewels and expensive dresses, and the staff treated them as they would any upscale female customer. That meant ignoring the women in order to allow them to try on clothing in privacy. It was only after the women had left that the staff realized the women had shoplifted a fortune’s worth of gems, furs, and clothing. These were no ordinary shoppers: They were members of London’s first all-female gang — the Forty Elephants. The gang focused primarily on the theft of gems, jewelry, furs, and fashion items. With the money they made through resale, they purchased even more expensive items for themselves, never wearing what they had stolen. In the 1920s, the Forty Elephants reached the pinnacle of their success and notoriety, and in 1925 the first arrest was made. The gang was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but once released it all began over again. The Forty Elephants officially disbanded in 1992, when the leader of the gang since the 1960, Shirley Pitts, died. Today, the Forty Elephants remain one of the most successful and longest-lasting criminal organizations in English history.