Defiant love

All For Love: Part Three

Black and white dual mugshot of woman; seated on left, standing with chair on right.

Gladys Lowe, 28 September 1928. New South Wales Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums

Love can make people do crazy things, risking their reputations, careers and even their freedom. New research into the NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive has revealed some unexpected stories behind the images.

The path to true love is seldom smooth. For many bi-racial couples in 1920s Sydney, it meant enduring society’s censure and even police scrutiny. Gladys Lowe had been living with a Chinese man for four years when she was caught with opium during a police raid in 1928. The raid was conducted in response to complaints by locals that white women and Chinese men frequented Lowe’s Darlinghurst house. At this time, rumours were rife of an underworld white slave trade in which young European women, plied with opium, were forced to provide sexual services to non-European men. No evidence of slavery was found, and Lowe was fined 10 pounds by the court for opium possession. She continued to live with her Chinese lover in defiance of neighbourhood disapproval. 

You can read more stories like this in Underworld.

About the author

Nerida Campbell


Nerida’s passion for history was influenced by childhood holidays spent at her grandmother’s farm, happily rifling through chests brimming with family photographs, generations of clothing and things she still can’t identify.