Cecilia Curtain was imprisoned at Geelong in 1893 for short period, one of many incarcerations over her lifetime. She went by a variety of names including Cecilia Barrett, Cecilia Curtain, Cecilia Hogan and Cecilia Fitzgerald.
Cecilia was referred to at one point as the “one eyed tiger” in newspapers of the day for her tenacity in robbing her male customers. But her life was a tough one, like so many others who ended up on the wrong side of the bars.
Born in 1858 at Sailors Falls, just outside Daylesford, Cecilia was placed in the industrial school system by the time she was 13 years old. Her father was ordered to pay for her upkeep but seems to have disappeared not long after.
We next find Cecilia in Carlton, working as a domestic servant for James Rawlings as a 16 year old. She appeared in the Police Gazette for absconding when in fact she had finished her time the year before. Cecilia was described as 16 years of age, medium height, freckled face, dark hair, mark on right eye, dressed in a brown dress with a straw hat with a blue ribbon, lace up boots.
Cecilia was only 20 years old when she appeared at the inquest into the death of her 4 month old son Arthur. Arthur died when he was overlain in his mothers bed but the inquest noted that he was also malnourished.
In 1880, Cecilia married David Curtain and had 2 daughters, Annie and Julia. In February 1883, Julia died aged 6 months of neglect and malnourishment.
In the same year, Cecilia was convicted for the first time at the age of 25 of Robbery in Company, being sentenced to 2 years hard labour at Melbourne Gaol.
This was the beginning of her criminal career that would last until she was an elderly woman.
In 1887, she was convicted of larceny and in 1888 in the company of Annie Flowers, she was charged with robbing John Lawton of 13 pounds. The pair stated that he had hid the money in the bed of the house where they were staying. Newspapers reported that both women were prostitutes. Cecilia would receive a sentence of 3 years hard labour.
In 1907, Cecilia was a witness to an assault charge on her by “Chook” Dalrymple. She stated that he was abusing a blind man, so she took him to task. Dalrymple punched Cecilia in her sightless eye. He was well known for his abuse of women but defended himself stating that Cecilia was the “champion lady fighter of Little Bourke Street”. Dalrymple was gaoled for 2 months.
From 1891 until 1928, Cecilia was gaoled no fewer than 11 times for vagrancy, drunk and disorderly or insufficient means, leading usually to sentences of 12 months or more.
In 1899, Cecilia married Michael Hogan but she still continued her old ways. In 1910, she was arrested in Victoria street, North Melbourne and charged with offensive behaviour. She was dancing on the street with other drunks and when asked to move on, blew cigarette smoke into the faces of people walking past! A feisty lady!
Cecilia’s life ended on 22 July 1932 at the Royal Park Benevolent Home in Brunswick, Victoria when she died of Chronic Pulmonary Fibrosis, Bronchitis and Heart Failure. She was buried at Springvale Cemetery with no known relatives listed on her death certificate.