A couple of days ago, I mentioned one of the greatest fences of all times, Marl Madelbaum. Today I’ll introduce you to a counterpart of hers, “Deadshot” Mary Shanley, an early 20th century undercover supercop. Hadley Meares of Atlas Obscura has unearthed the story of this fascinating woman.
Mary Shanley, 1937. (Photo: Library of Congress/LC-USZ62-134714)
“Deadshot” Mary Shanley was born in Ireland in 1896. Her family immigrated to America, and in 1931, Mary joined the NYPD. This was an unusual step for a woman of her time, though not unheard of.
During the first half of the 20th century, policewomen in America often worked undercover, on so-called “women’s beats.” “They are called upon regularly to trail or trap mashers, shoplifters, pickpockets and fortune-tellers; to impersonate drug addicts and hardened convicts, to expose criminal medical practice, find lost persons, guide girls in trouble, break up fake…