MARY ‘JENNY DIVER’ YOUNG 1700-1741
This cunning lady can’t sweet-talk the hangman!
Mary Young didn’t just inspire the character of pickpocket
Jenny Diver in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728), she gave Diver her memorable nickname too.
Born in poverty, Mary left her native Ireland to come to England and make her fortune. Intelligent, cunning and beautiful, she joined a pickpocketing gang as Jenny Diver.
Jenny’s method was simple. She used her smarts, beauty and elegant wardrobe to mix with the wealthy and then feign a swoon. As people rushed to help, she dipped into their pockets and cleaned them out. She even used fake hands to leave her own free to steal!
When the law caught up with her and she was transported to Virginia, Jenny bribed the governor to send her home, but her charms failed her when she was arrested in 1741. Though she claimed to be pregnant, she was sentenced to death. She went to the gallows in a private carriage, dressed in a rich gown of mourning black.
A performance of The Beggar’s Opera, which featured a character inspired by Jenny Diver