Black Bandit, White Wife

Bethan Johnson

‘A life lived at the messy intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, criminality and motherhood.’ This was the perfect description of the narrative told to workshop attendees by Meg Foster, a PhD student from the University of New South Wales and a visiting student at Cambridge, of her research into the life of Ethel Page, wife of convicted murderer Jimmy Governor. One element of a broader thesis analysing non-traditional Australian bushrangers (generally speaking, outlaws who committed crimes, often robberies, in the Australian wilderness), Foster’s presentation focused on how Ethel’s relationship with her husband, as well as his crimes and short-lived life on the run, transfixed 19th century Australian society. Instead of focusing on Jimmy, as many true crime accounts of this case have done, Foster allowed Ethel to take the central role in this story, thereby allowing her to tease out broader themes regarding gender, race, and journalism.

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