The Virgo ‘Lady Outlaw’

“No sponging, no dobbing, no prostitution…”*

This was the personal credo of Australian “lady bushranger” Jessie Hickman. She was known for her dramatic escape moves (escaping from a locked toilet on a moving train, jumping off cliffs to swim away, etc) and daring heists (such as stealing cattle from the police holding yard). There have been numerous movies and other accounts of the male bushrangers – Ned Kelly in particular – why not her? It’s not as if her life was short on cinematic drama.

Born in 1890, in a Southern Highlands copper mining town, her parents gave her to a traveling circus at the age of eight. She worked from that day on, becoming an accomplished rough-rider and tightrope walker. She was also variously described as a “child bride” or “mistress” to the owner of Martini’s Rough Riders, a former acrobat 28 years her senior.

He died, in a bizarre horse incident, when she was 17 and she ran the circus alone for four years before selling it. Over her 20s, Hickman became an increasingly frequent presence in the crime section of the newspapers; her youth, horsemanship skills, and wit capturing the attention of reporters and the public alike. The crimes were petty – stealing a rug and some ducks, for example, but she was jailed several times, on one occasion to “save her from a sad and dangerous life.”

At 28 she was released on parole to serve as house-keeper to an allegedly violent alcoholic – in court accused of rustling his cattle, she claimed he was lying to conceal his abuse.”He came home one day and threatened to cut me down with an ax. He hit me, and I set him a go and gave him as good as he gave me.” Later she was alleged to have killed him in self-defense but his body was never found.

She was a Virgo, with her Sun square Mars in Sagittarius and a Moon-Pluto conjunction in Gemini. Her athleticism and wiliness reflect both aspects and, according to someone who knew her: “Jessie loved a fight better than a feed, she would put up her ‘dooks’ and could go six rounds with a goanna without getting a scratch.”  Come on, what Mars in Saggo person would not like that description? *

She also had Venus conjunct Uranus in Libra – an unconventional woman (she said she was “unsuited to domesticity”) in a society that saw them – and even more tyrannically, the indigenous people – as something to control.

At 30, she became one of the few women in the world to be named in court as having abandoned a husband, evidently because she “preferred the company of horses and cows.

The marriage annulled and her son given to a friend to raise, she fled to the country and morphed into a fully-fledged outlaw, living in a variety of secret bush hideouts and leading a gang of men she called the “young bucks.” Never again captured, Jessie Hickman became an Australian Wild West legend, before dying sadly young (46) of (possibly) a brain tumor.

Reading between the lines she endured or fought off multiple abusers, crafting her own, admittedly illicit, career. Brave and resourceful, she didn’t deserve to be buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave, presumably because of her outlaw status. She would probably have preferred to pass mid-flight, high on yet another successful escape. I like to think of her on her horse, Gang-Gang, galloping through the dense forest of the mountains she loved, hair streaming behind her in a eucalyptus-scented breeze.


*I don’t think she would have been anti-sex-workers – more that in her context, it would have meant being controlled by a man.

**Little is known of her love life once she became a bushranger but the flowery teapot found beside her bed in the hideout at Nullo Mountain was, however, very Venus in Libra.

25 thoughts on “The Virgo ‘Lady Outlaw’”

  1. Her horse was called Gang-Gang – that’s cool enough alone. A few months ago, I read an obituary of one of the 3 then teenage Dutch girls (2 sisters and a friend) who, as part of their contribution to the Dutch Resistance, would flirt with and then lure away Gestapo officers to their deaths. They ended up killing quite a few Nazis. And on looking them up on Wiki, I noticed all 3 were Virgos. Fierce.

  2. Artist Tina Havelock-Stevens did a performance based on Jessie, for the Cementa Biennale, at Kandos near Nullo Mountain, NSW

  3. #baller #legend As usual, thanks for the info so we can all toot her horn and get her known #truthscomingout #womenleaders

  4. Jessie Hickman needs a kick-ass ‘western’ style movie! After watching Man From Snowy River in high school I craved more Aussie bush stories, this would be perfect!

    1. Imagine growing up with Jessie’s story instead of Picnic At Hanging Rock? The female characters in Hanging Rock were so…..passive.

  5. What a woman! Given to a circus at 8 is a bit harsh. She had the fortitude to lead her own path. Having to escape to have her freedom. Early times would have seen her a crazy witch. Inspiring !

    1. Yeah, I noticed the trauma running like a thread through her story, too – along with her admirable guts (whether causative or correlative, who could answer??) She didn’t want to be controlled//oppressed and was born at the wrong time (and perhaps that defines Lilith, in any context – just the simple (or complex!!) act of identifying and defying oppression). Raising my tea-cup to her, sending her peace.

      1. Wish Upon a Star

        Beautifully said. It makes me want to cry.

        This rebellion has been a flame that has never gone out in my life.

        1. Hey there Wish, I don’t know if you’ll see this in time (am a bit late) but I just wanted to say, I SO hope you are feeling better (I read your comment about finishing chemo late last year under one of the previous posts). Xx Absolutely always rebel against other people’s projections – sending strength. 🙂 Xoo

  6. Off topic, but is there anyone else who thinks the line-up of planets in the heavens looks spectacular right now? It is like a big catapult with Mars in Taurus on the verge of being launched into the future by its exact conjunction with Uranus… And this in combination with the Sun having entered Aquarius just now and about to meet Saturnus and Jupiter in the coming few days…

    1. IKR?!
      I reckon even the authorities were secretly impressed, because … well she was!
      I also love “…has elusive skills on pursuit..” lol, great turn of phrase.

  7. Now THIS is what i want to start my day reading! Totally inspiring (& music to my Mars square Jupe).
    Her motto: No sponging, no dobbing, no prostitution…” is just fab & smacks of her proud Leo Lilith.

  8. Can fully imagine the Virgo i know engaging in any or all of these incidents, should her freedom and independence ever be threatened. Amazingly, she is married. Used to scorn most muggle men, though with good reason (if you knew her life and her intelligence). This bushranger should be better known! So interesting, Mystic.

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