The flapper was an alluring vision of sophistication and freedom for young women globally. She danced, drank to excess and smoked, drove cars, bobbed her hair and generally defied conventions of ‘modest’ feminine behaviour.

After encountering these insouciant role models in magazines and film, some women turned to crime to fund their own pursuit of this exciting lifestyle. The Specials of female felons unexpectedly document the fashion of the times as hemlines rise, silk stockings glimmer in the sunlight and luxurious mink coats are caught on camera alongside less showy wraps.

Edna May Lindsay

22 March 1929

Suspected of forging and uttering

Lindsay was in love with a young man who dreamed of being a dancer. The couple needed funds to marry and set off together on a national dancing tour. Lindsay stole a cheque from her employer and the lovers forged the signature, hoping to obtain £310 from the bank. They were arrested after bank officials became suspicious. Lindsay and her boyfriend received suspended sentences and some advice from the judge: ‘Dancing is not everything in life’ (The Sun (Sydney), 17 April 1929).

Elsie Parker & Daisy May Rose Buchanan

29 August 1930

Suspected of assault and robbery

Parker and Buchanan invited a door-to-door salesman into their home, where they allegedly bashed him and robbed him of his money and stock of petticoats, bloomers, stockings and socks. They then bundled the bewildered man into a taxi and dumped him at a bus stop. The women were acquitted of the crime.

Edna Edgar

22 December 1926

Suspect, offence unknown

Dual mugshot in black and white; man seated and then man standing, with white naval cap on.

A dubious defence

On 19 October 1921 Herbert Burridge was listed in the New South Wales Police Gazette as a deserter from HMAS Cerberus


Behind the scenes: How to read a ‘special’

Around the world, police forces followed established conventions when taking mugshots. But Sydney police in the 1920s did things differently

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