Ruthless, real: Sydney showcases its criminal women

Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:45am EDT
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Some of Sydney's most infamous women criminals have come back to life in a museum exhibit that slays all stereotypes of the wickedly seductive, glamorous female outlaw.

The "Femme Fatale: The Female Criminal" exhibition, at The Justice & Police Museum, looks at crimes committed by females since the first immigrant woman stepped on to Australian soil through to the 1950s.

Not for the faint hearted, it also explores criminology, the justice system, religion and myth, popular culture and case studies of some of Sydney's most notorious female criminals.

"We are really bringing to the forefront this contrast between what popular culture sees as the female criminal, often quite sexy, glamorous imagery and then the reality of the sad lives led by Sydney's female criminals," Nerida Campbell curator of the exhibition told Reuters.

The exhibition gives an insight into the lives of 40 notorious female criminals who were convicted and spent time in Sydney's Long Bay maximum security jail.

These include infamous brothel owner Tilly Devine, illegal alcohol operator Kate Leigh; Yvonne Fletcher, the first women to use thallium to poison her two husbands and Louisa Collins, the last women hanged in New South Wales in 1889.


"The women of the Razor Gang era in the 1920s to the 1940s, in particular Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine, they were women in quite powerful positions," Campbell said.   Continued...