The untold story of the flamboyant and fearless woman who captivated mid-20th century Australia with her exploits.
Bee Miles was notorious for jumping in and out of taxis and trams without paying her fare, reciting Shakespeare in public, and sleeping on city monuments. But she was no ordinary vagrant.
Born into a wealthy Sydney family and highly educated, she was part of the city's literary and artistic circles in the 1930s. She was the subject of a stream of national and local media reports for decades about her travels across the country, and other exploits including stopping a country train in its tracks, and emerging majestically from the surf at Manly with a knife strapped to each thigh. She was once even voted more famous than the Prime Minister. She was also repeatedly incarcerated in prisons and mental hospitals, and treated brutally by a succession of figures in authority, starting with her father.
A truly larger than life character, Bee repeatedly defied conventional expectations of female behaviour. Her story has been told again and again in many forms by the many people fascinated by her boldness. But no-one has dug deeply into the roots of Bee's behaviour. Rose Ellis draws on Bee's very frank unpublished memoir of her treatment as a psychiatric patient, comparing it with her medical case notes, and at times astonishing correspondence between her family and her psychiatrists. It's a fascinating insight into a dark side of our 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