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      Shining Ladies CONTINUED
      secret behind their success. At that time, in many     make a living. In Franklin County, the devastation
      states it was illegal to search a woman, or at the very   of the local chestnut tree caused extreme economic
      least, considered most improper. Back then, it was     hardship, and it coincided roughly with Prohibition.
      considered insulting to accuse a woman of such a       These people saw moonshining as a way out, a means
      crime. The women would often hide flasks under         of putting food on the table.
      their clothing, and dare the lawmen to search them,
                                                                In addition to the aforementioned social
      threatening to sue them if they laid hands on them.
                                                             constructs, women had another advantage over men
         The attitude was so prevalent that those on the     with respect to the trade: They were much better at
      side of the law often refused to believe that a still   keeping their activities under wraps. Whereas men
      was being operated by a woman, choosing instead        were more likely to be loud and boastful, the women
      to blame it on her male relatives. Juries were very    kept relatively silent. Men would resort to violence
      reluctant to convict mothers and grandmothers of       at times to settle disputes; the women would resolve
      bootlegging, so that even when they were caught,       their problems more quietly.
      they often got off with little or
                                                                                   So while the likes of Popcorn
      no punishment.
                                                                                Sutton and the Bondurant
         In one case, Esther Matson, a                                          brothers made all of the
      22-year-old woman bootlegger                                              headlines, the women worked
      in Denver, was sentenced to                                               more stealthily. Franklin
      attend church every Sunday                                                County, VA is well known as
      for 2 years. In 1925, a woman                                             the “Moonshine Capital of the
      in Milwaukee pled guilty to                                               World”, and likely deservedly
      earning $30,000 a year from her                                           so. What is less known is that
      bootlegging operation. That’s                                             one of the most successful of
      over $400,000 a year in today’s                                           all moonshiners was a Franklin
      dollars. She was fined $200, and                                          County woman by the name
      sentenced to a month in jail. A                                           of Diana Marie Sharpe, who
      woman in Michigan who was                                                 went by the alias “Willie Carter”
      convicted of moonshining was                                              Sharpe.
      pardoned by the President of the
                                                                In her time, she ran over 200,000 gallons of shine
      United States, Warren G. Harding. In another case,
                                                             from Virginia, much of it across state lines, earning
      Ohio governor Vic Donahey commuted a woman’s
                                                             her the nickname The Rum Running Queen. Willie
      sentence to a mere five days.
                                                             was quoted as saying, “It was the excitement that got
         Moonshiners eventually realized that law            me. Cars scattering, dashing along the streets.” She
      enforcement officers were much less likely to suspect   was prominently featured in the Great Moonshine
      women of bootlegging, and while some were actually     Conspiracy trial in Franklin County, and newspaper
      employed as moonshiners, others were hired to just     accounts of her testimony reported that spectators
      “ride along” with the actual moonshiners, because      were fixated on the diamonds in her teeth. She
      their presence made it far less likely that the vehicle   reportedly had “movie star good looks”, and while
      would be stopped. In the words of a newspaper          perhaps less well known in this country, she seems to
      reporter at the time, “No self-respecting federal agent   have captured the fancy of the French. At least one
      likes to hold up an automobile containing women.”      French film has chronicled her escapades, and there
                                                             is also a Tavern in Montpelier, France that is named
         It is alleged that women moonshiners probably
                                                             for her as well.
      outnumbered the men by as much as 5 to 1. Many
      of them were honest folk who just needed a way to         Another noteworthy female moonshiner,

      8      Discover Smith Mountain Lake  FALL 2021
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