Bee Miles was a truly larger-than-life character. Famous for being outrageous in public or, as she said, living 'recklessly', she shocked and intrigued cities and towns across Australia. But she was no ordinary wanderer.
Born into a wealthy family, Miles moved in Sydney's literary and artistic circles in the 1920s and 1930s before she took up residence on the streets. A consummate performer and a perceptive critic, she caught the public's imagination with her spectacular acts of defiance, emerging majestically from the surf with a knife strapped to each thigh, stopping a country train in its tracks, hitchhiking across remote Australia and drawing large city crowds with her Shakespeare recitations. She was once even voted more famous than the Prime Minister. She was also repeatedly incarcerated in prisons, confined to mental hospitals and treated brutally by a succession of authority figures, starting with her father.
Miles constantly defied conventional expectations of female behaviour. The public found her captivating and fragments of her story have been told again and again in many forms. Until now, no-one has uncovered the real story behind the colourful legend. This first full biography offers a fascinating glimpse into a dark side of Australia's history.
'These pages dance with details of a forgotten Australia, in which the sane were in asylums, the rich were on the left, and clever Bee Miles dominated the city of Sydney.' - Alison Bashford, author of An Intimate History of Evolution
'The remarkable tale of an eternal vagabond, Bohemian to her core.' - Lucy Frost, historian and author
'A thrilling ride through the life of one of Australia's most gifted, yet misunderstood, characters. I adored it!' - Mandy Sayer, award-winning author
'A brilliant rollercoaster of a book.' - Craig Munro, author of Literary Lion Tamers
Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication:
Publication Date: 01 September 2023
Preface1 On the battlements 2 Trouble on the North Shore line 3 Wanting in control 4 Constraint 5 Flight 6 Adventures in Bohemia 7 Playing the game 8 Jumping the rattler 9 Grand schemes 10 Blind Ambition 11 Fame and Infamy 12 A tenant of the city 13 Transport wars 14 Love and the nation 15 To sleep: perchance to dream 16 None but fools would keep Acknowledgements List of Bee Miles' Unpublished Manuscripts Notes Index
Rose Ellis is a writer, editor and researcher based in Sydney.