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This article focuses on the criminal work performed by African American women in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century New York City. I examine Black women's illegal work in the larger context of dominant society's racist-sexist ideologies and white male police officers', judges', and journalists' responses to crime. I argue that, for most convicted Black women, crime was a type of work. Black women's criminal work, most frequently in the form of theft, was a tactical and moral response to poverty generated by racist-sexist discrimination. White men's legalistic and journalistic interpretations of women's criminal work were race, class, and gender specific. Popular racial fictions about female criminality, widely represented in the white press, motivated and justified the discriminatory law enforcement that produced Black women's disproportionate incarceration rate.