Sounds like an odd name right…? well here is the reasoning…
The 40 elephant gang was an all-female criminal group during the 1920’s/30s that operated out of the Elephant and Castle district of London – hence the elephant part of their name. 40 was simply how many women there were.
During the mid – 19th century the UK had seen a meteoric rise in the number of crimes committed – for many it was the only way to survive in a society that had a somewhat Draconian social system – if you were poor you went to a workhouse or you went to prison – prison was often better than the workhouse – so thousands became petty criminals. For women it was either crime or prostitution. It was still not much better for lower class women in the 1920’s and 30’s. Cue, the 40 elephant gang.
The fact that all the involved criminals were women meant that they went undetected for many years – men did not expect it of women to be so crude – ha! They specialised in shoplifting and also blackmailed and pressured other, smaller gangs of criminals.
They used their feminine wiles and nature to dupe unsuspecting shop owners into being robbed of their goods – often high-end shops in the shopping centres of London and the surrounding area.
It was a family run business so to speak, led by Alice Diamond, Maggie Hill, Gertrude Scully and the Partridge sisters. Younger family members replaced the old hands and so the group continued until after the Second World War.
They are said to have been admired by their equally numerous male counterparts.
The gang’s ‘reign’ is said to have been between 1873-1950s.