The entry available in book form! More info here!
I note this in the citations and art notes, but the main source on this is Larry Writer’s excellent book Razor, which was adapted into an Australian mini-series. You should check it out, if you have a chance!
- Kate Leigh was also known as Kate Barker, Kate Lee, and a number of other names. Tilly’s maiden name was Twiss. ↩
- Art goof on my part: plastic wasn’t invented by then, it would have been in some paper or a sealed box. ↩
- I don’t want to overstate their exploitation of sexist assumptions. It is true that in an early court case, Kate Leigh perjured herself for lover, claiming they’d been hanging out the entire time of the robbery he had committed. The jury had a hard time believing a woman would willingly slander her own reputation by saying she was involved with criminals, unwilling at first to believe she was one herself. ↩
- This incident actually happened a little bit differently. Kate probably got off the tram properly first, and walked up to Tilly. Moreover, there was a good-sized crowd that had formed by the time Kate took her on. ↩
- It’s hard to tell how long it went on exactly, but it was less time than you’d think. Probably 1927-1930 or so. It did get insanely ugly, though, with upwards of 40 people at a time beating the hell out of each other in the streets. But inevitably, when questioned by the cops, everyone would claim ignorance as to who assaulted them. ↩
- The razors were so prevalent that the neighborhood of Darlinghurst came to be known as Razorhurst. ↩
- This was the Pistol Licensing Act of 1927. While Tilly and Kate did use razors on various people (accounts said Tilly had scars above each eye), I found no record of them using razors on each other. Kate was more known to use fists and bricks than anything. She also carried a gun on her at almost all times. ↩
- This is the aforementioned perjury case — also the first time in Australia that a motor vehicle was used in a robbery! Her lover, Ernest “Shiner” Ryan, robbed a railway company’s payroll at gunpoint, and she perjured herself, saying that she was with him at the time. She went to jail for seven years but got out in five. She missed all of World War I while she was in jail. ↩
- This glosses over a ton of other stuff: she was married twice before this, each to petty crooks. She had a daughter, Eileen, with the first guy, around 1903. She also lied to protect him when he assaulted their landlord, and went to jail. After divorcing him, she became a factory worker, a sex worker, stole, fenced goods, and would provide false alibis for money. By 1922, she was divorced and married a guy named Teddy Barry. That didn’t last very long, as she caught him cheating and ended up savagely beating him and his mistress. ↩
- Larry Writer points out that they’d actually worked out that Tilly would return to her old line of work before she came to Australia. He also notes that she continued doing sex work even when they did not financially need to, as it afforded them a more lavish lifestyle. It is simultaneously true that Jim lied to her about his background, encouraged her to stay in sex work, and was a violent, abusive partner. ↩
- Her relationship with Jim Devine was complicated as hell. They had a kid, Frederick, that they left with Tilly’s folks in England when they went to Australia – they had fairly little contact with him throughout their lives. They both beat the crap out of each other on a regular basis, and were a textbook abusive relationship. She was known to turn on a dime if Jim – or anyone else – crossed her. There are numerous stories of her being sweet and loving one minute and a holy terror the next. ↩
- A police article summed it up well when talking about Tilly: “She has been in conflict with society all her life. She has fought it with words, with action, with her bare hands. She has held it by the throat and shaken it. She has spat in its face. Her sense of values, her code of morals and of ethics, are her own and she will tolerate no interference. For the average man, her life has held that singular fascination the criminologist describes – the fascination of the thunderstorm.” ↩
- The woman in the upper panel is a Patreon backer – one of the rewards at the level she backed was to be drawn into the comic! :) ↩
- Mensch as in the Yiddish term for a good person,” not the German word for “human.” ↩
- Kate actually dated “Monkey” Webb for a bit. ↩
- Green worked for Jim and Tilly for the most part, and was their chief enforcer. He eventually turned on them. Calletti generally worked on his own and was not overly successful at it. Nellie was a sex worker and small-time crook who dated a lot of people. ↩
- Alfred Barker’s fuller title was “N****r Fox,” which led some people to assume his last name was Fox. Finding out his actual name was not that difficult, although Google probably thinks I’m a horrible racist now. I’m surprised almost no books list it. ↩
- The middle three in the police lineup are Lillian Armfield, who was one of Tilly and Kate’s chief antagonists; “Bumper” Farrell, an unbelievably violent ex-rugby player who’d been nicknamed The Cannibal after biting off someone’s ear – he led the Vice Squad in the 20s; and William Mackay, who modernized policing for the department. ↩
- Mackay was probably the biggest boon to all of them. Prior to his work, they were understaffed and underfunded, which led to many being susceptible to bribes. Moreover, they had no way of radioing for backup, so if and when they busted someone in Razorhurst, they would have to walk all the way back with them, alone. Mackay modernized the department, and also called Tilly and Kate in and made them knock it off in 1936. ↩
- Part of the horrific side effects that I allude to here was a crackdown on gay men. “Bumper” Farrell in particular would go out of his way to harass any “bohemian” types. ↩
- I don’t know if the helmeted “bobby” cops are an anachronism. I found some photos that said they were from Australia that showed such outfits, but they could easily have been mislabeled. ↩
- Kate was busted for just a tin of cocaine at this juncture, but she did have thousands of bottles of booze later discovered in her floorboards. I’m conflating the two with visual shorthand. ↩
- And yes, the term at the time was “gaol.” I’m writing in modern parlance. ↩
- The outfits they’re wearing in prison are from some pictures of Australian women’s prisons circa 1910. I am unsure if it’s accurate for that decade. ↩
- The woman she robbed had been married to an alcoholic – and was an alcoholic herself. She went to their toolshed at some point, and he thought that she had a secret bottle of booze she wasn’t sharing, so he attacked her. She defended herself by slashing him in his hand, but he bled out and died. Kate became close friends with her – although Kate pissed off nearly everyone else in prison by being loud, bossy, and not doing any work – and picked her up in a limo once she got out. She then took her to collect the pension check and robbed her. ↩
- The guy shot in the crotch was Jim McNamara. He was at one of Kate’s establishments, got into an argument, and refused to leave – at which point she shot him. Like everyone else at the time, he refused to implicate her or press charges. ↩
- In later years, they also informed to the cops – Kate especially. ↩
- This was an actual feud – during which Tilly was often photographed with her Pomeranians. The back-and-forth mostly happened after Tilly went to England, and Kate started making fun of her in the press for having run away. ↩
- One book claimed that Kate was actually giving out stolen toys, which I can’t corroborate, but it’s hysterical and entirely in line with her character. ↩
- To be clear, their acts of charity did not begin and end with the Salvation Army. Both looked after the homeless, donated to orphanages, and helped out families through the Great Depression – much of it anonymously. Kate even bought some Shetland ponies for the neighborhood kids. They really did keep much of the neighborhood afloat, but on a whole, it seems that Kate was much more giving than Tilly. ↩
- By the time Tilly had come back from England, Jim had taken to openly sleeping with various women – humiliating Tilly in the process. This culminated in their 25th wedding anniversary, when he came in late, from having been out drinking with his lover. He then loudly proclaimed to everyone at the lavish party that he was going to marry this new woman, and then broke a bottle over Tilly’s head. She started divorcing him soon after, but it took about a year to complete. ↩
- To give you an idea of how complicated their relationship was, Jim and Tilly even remained friendly after this, visiting each other regularly over the rest of their lives – although it was never long before they started fighting again. ↩
- Her new husband was a gangster named Eric Parsons. She was also abusive to him. :-/ ↩
- Kate also remarried around this time, to Ernest “Shiner” Ryan – the guy who robbed the railway company for whom she perjured herself in the 1910s! However, Ryan wanted her to move out from Sydney, and it lasted less than a month. ↩
- There were a bunch of pictures taken of them in a 1948 interview that Kate had arranged. Both were getting beaten pretty hard by the tax folk at this point. ↩
- That was the actual outfit Tilly wore to Kate’s funeral. She did later say “God rest the old bitch’s soul,” but didn’t at the time of the funeral, I don’t believe. ↩
[click to hide/expand]
Most of what you’d want to know are in the footnotes. Larger points I want to make:
- Posting about these women doesn’t mean I think they should be emulated. While this point should be obvious, apparently some people feel the need to be told.
- There’s an Australian TV series called Underbelly Razor that covered these two. My main source was the book the show was based on (I had to import it!).
- There were plenty of other gangsters besides them, but they were two of the longest-lived.
If you were a Patreon backer,
you'd be seeing some cool stuff right here.
Next Time on Rejected Princesses
I’m very unexpectedly having to find a new place to live, which is throwing my life into yet more chaos. I will be updating with shorter entries in the meanwhile. Here’s the hint for next week:
She may have only had one good eye, but this famous southern queen kept it on Roman Egypt.