a.k.a. The Lady Bushranger

The Wild Woman of Wollemi 

Jessie Hickman

Jessie Hickman

Born Elizabeth Jessie Hunt in 1890 in NSW, Jessie’s mother sold her to a travelling circus when she was just eight. 

By the age of 17, Jessie was a champion roughrider and ring mistress of Martini's Buckjumping Show. 

Leaving the circus, in 1913 a pregnant Jessie waved Ben Hickman off to war. Shortly afterwards Jessie gave their son to a friend to raise and headed to Sydney for a life of crime. 

Jessie stole cattle, pinched clothing and dodged the police.

Unfortunately for her, she wasn’t always fast enough.

By 1916 she had served two terms in Long Bay Goal and was charged again in 1918.

This time, however, she was acquitted. 

Jessie headed over the Great Dividing Range to the plains of Wollemi.

Drawing on her formidable horse-riding and bush survival skills, she became a notorious cattle duffer.

Jessie escaped arrest time and again by driving her horse and stolen cattle into treacherous gullies and dangerous ravines. 

Living in caves deep in the mountains, Jessie’s infamy drew local men to her side, forming a gang she referred to as her ‘young bucks’.

Their predations on the cattle farmers of Moree earnt Jessie the nickname The Lady Bushranger

According to legend, she once escaped capture by plunging her horse over cliff into the river below.

On another occasion she allegedly evaded police by climbing out of a locked toilet on a moving train. 

In 1920 Jessie reunited with Ben Hickman.

They separated after four years of stormy marriage.

Ben lived to a ripe old age…unlike another of Jessie’s rumoured beaus, who she was accused of killing in self-defence (though his body was never found). 

Despite evading police again and again, in 1928 Jessie was facing gaol again.

A wanted poster for Jessie Hickman c. 1920

A wanted poster for Jessie Hickman c. 1920

She managed to convince the jury that the cattle she was accused of stealing had strayed into her herd by accident!

That was one close call too many. 

She scaled her thievery right back, though fate denied her a long retirement.

In 1936, after years of poor health, Jessie died of a brain tumour.

She was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave at Sandgate Cemetery in Newcastle. 

Jessie’s life was one of daring, lawbreaking and risk-taking, a tale as thrilling and engaging as that of any other bushranger. 

That’s why, in 2019, Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival encourages you to explore the lives of Australia’s notorious female bushrangers, including 


Capture the spirit of one of Australia’s female bushrangers to win the:

Terror Australis Festival Art Awards 2019 (with prizes worth $2000)

Children’s Writing Competition 2019 (open to all children up to age 16), or

Scarlet Stiletto Awards 2019 - Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival Award for Best Bushranger Story (Open to all Australian female writers, regardless of age)