Horse Thief Was a Thief-ette

HER SEX REVEALED

WOMAN CONVICT ESCAPES DETECTION ONE YEAR.

SENSATION IN PENITENTIARY

HORSETHIEF PROVES TO BE A YOUNG GIRL.

“Burt” Martin Convicted as a Man Turns Out to Be Lean Martin — Had a Male Cellmate.

For eleven months a woman has been imprisoned in the Nebraska penitentiary garbed as a man. She was tried, convicted and sentenced in Keya Paha county on a charge of horse stealing all the time dressed in man’s garb, and she passed the scrutiny of the guards at the entrance to the prison eleven months ago with the secret of her sex preserved. Now she is once more garbed in woman’s clothing and in this dress, she will spend the remainder of her three year sentence.

Discovery Made.

That such an unusual occurrence could happen considering the gauntlet every person admitted to the penitentiary must run seems incredible. Yet the discovery of the sex was not made till two days ago, by the prison authorities. The woman’s real name is Lena Martin but she has been known as Burt Martin and under this name she has gone for many years. Her father is dead but her mother resides not far from Springview. she was sentenced for rustling horses and when she came down to Lincoln, she had the reputation of being good at “borrowing” animals. The convict Martin was always regarded as of rather delicate constitution. He had small feet and small hands. His face was like that of a young boy as he was only nineteen years old when admitted. He was five feet, eight inches in height and weighed 140 pounds. He was employed in the broom factory and performed his duties well as the ordinary prisoner.

Were the Guards Napping.

When a prisoner is admitted to the penitentiary, he is thoroughly examined for identifying marks and one of the first duties of the guards is to give a bath in a large open bath room where any peculiarity or deformity would be noticed and made note of as a means of identification in case of escape. Nothing is now known of the incidents surrounding the admission of the young woman as this occurred eleven months ago under the previous administration. The guards might have been napping when she entered or the girl may have been more than usually clever at concealment. She was passed through and given a suit of stripes and since that time has not given the authorities any cause for suspicion until recently.

Whispers of a Mystery.

It was whispered about the prison among the convicts that a mystery surrounded the personality of young Martin. Some of the prisoners talked much of Martin’s cell mate and gave a gentle hint to the guards that an investigation would result in a revelation. At this time the prison physician was called upon to tend the cell mate and the secret was revealed by degrees.

As soon as discovered, the young woman wanted to be garbed in woman’s dress but the penitentiary authorities did not have a stock on hand and the steward was compelled to come to Lincoln and get a complete lady’s outfit. So not till yesterday was the lady horsethief once more dressed in woman’s clothes. She took the discovery of her sex without much chagrin and appeared to regard the matter as a rather comical incident.

The prison authorities know little about the history of the case before it came to them. The young woman lived in a county where the stock interests are large and where there are many cases of cattle rustling. When she gave her name to be entered on the records, she told the officers that she was a married man.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Oct 4, 1901

Convict a Woman.

Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 1 — For 11 months the officials at the Nebraska state penitentiary have supposed that a prisoner known as Burt Martin was a man. The discovery that the convict is a woman and that her real name is Lena Martin was made two days ago by the prison physician. She was arrested, tried and convicted at Spring View, Keya Paha county, as a man, a year ago, for horse stealing. She seemed to take it as a joke when the discovery was made. Her mother lives near Springview. She is 20 years of age, large and coarsely built.

Lima Times Democrat ( Lima, Ohio) Oct 4, 1901

WOMAN CONVICTED AS MAN.

Her Sex Discovered Only After She Had Remained in the Penitentiary Eleven Months.

For For 11 months the officials at the Nebraska state penitentiary have supposed that a prisoner known as Burt Martin was a man. The discovery that the convict is a woman and that her real name is Lena Martin was made two days ago by the prison physician. She was arrested, tried and convicted at Spring View, Keya Paha county, as a man, a year ago, for horse stealing. Recently her cell mate intimated to the guards that an investigation would not be barren of developments. This was made when the prison physician was called to attend her.

She has donned woman’s clothes and will serve out the remainder of her three-year sentence. She seemed to take it as a joke when the discovery was made. Her mother lives near Springview. She is 20 years of age, large, and coarsely built for a woman. She comes from a ranch country, and was not known by her nearest neighbors, 20 miles away.

Daily Iowa State Press (Iowa City, Iowa) Nov 1, 1901

Governor Savage

PARDONS DISGUISED WOMAN.

OMAHA, Neb., June 23. — Governor Savage has released from the state penitentiary the convict who was sentenced under the name of Bert Martin, but who after a year was found to be a woman named Lena Martin. The woman had masqueraded for years as a man and was convicted of cattle-stealing. Recently her sex was discovered and on the promise that she would return to the home of her mother in Springview, Neb., and live an honest life she was pardoned yesterday.

Fort Wayne News (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Jun 23, 1902

LENA IS PARDONED ON PROMISING TO BE GOOD

LINCOLN, Neb., June 24. — Lena Martin, a woman convict in the Nebraska penitentiary, recovered while disguised as a man, was released from prison by Governor Savage on her pledge to reform. Lena carried on a deception for several years in northern Nebraska, but finally was arrested for cattle stealing and was sentenced to the penitentiary for three years. The prosecution was against “Bert” Martin, a man, and to the eye of the laws  he was still a man for a full year after entering the penitentiary for the prison authorities did not until that time discover her sex.

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) Jun 25, 1902

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One Response to “Horse Thief Was a Thief-ette”

  1. Le passage de Bert Martin en prison | Curiosités de Titam Says:

    […] Au sein de la prison, Bert a travaillé dans l’usine de production de balais. Au bout de onze mois, son codétenu balança aux autorités le secret de Bert. […]

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