Lillian ‘The Rugged Angel’ Armfield
Lillian Armfield was the first woman appointed to the NSW police force – effectively the first woman police officer in Australia. Actually, she was one of two women appointed at the same time, but the other woman opted out shortly afterwards. Female officers were an experiment at the time: the NSW police force bent under pressure from various women’s interest groups to allow them amongst their ranks; Commissioner Bill MacKay, typically, saw female officers as a new weapon to throw at the criminal underworld and eagerly implemented the plan.
Lillian had to waive all her entitlements to keep her job: she signed away health benefits, superannuation and her pension to be part of the experiment. She was cautioned not to enter into situations where her life could be placed in jeopardy but, given the reality of the situations in which she found herself, this was not always possible. As a woman she was often granted access to places from which her male associates were barred and she was the instrumental means whereby many criminals were apprehended. Ironically, the more successful she was at her job the more the various women’s interest groups – the same groups that had allowed her to gain her job – demanded that she be removed from her office. Bill MacKay wasn’t the kind of innovator to allow this to happen, however.
Officer Armfield had a very black-and-white worldview and she was always sure of her judgement of right and wrong; nowadays she would be regarded as somewhat of a wowser, but her assessment of individuals and their capacity for good or evil was invariably impeccable. She was one of those rare individuals who could respect a person’s decisions even if she, personally, felt they were wrong. After thirty-four years of tireless service she retired without a pension or any similar gratuity offered to those women who came after her. Her police colleagues rallied around and collected enough funds to allow her to enter an aged person’s hostel and live comfortably the rest of her days.
Phryne Fisher (F)
Although normally restricting her activities to the southern city of Melbourne, Miss Phryne Fisher has been known to hit Sydney for the high life every once in awhile. In one of her well-publicised cases (published as Death Before Wicket) she spent time at the University of Sydney investigating a murder amongst that institution’s cricketing fraternity.
Phryne Fisher is the inheritrix of a large British estate and the title that accompanies it although, having grown up in Australia before coming into her fortune, she prefers the social freedom that that emerging country allows her, rather than the hide-bound prurience of England. She has the ‘triple-threat’ advantages of endless money, wide experience and feminine wiles which she brings to bear on her cases, along with her stubborn social conscience and a refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer. She has amassed a cadre of helpers to assist her, including her sometime drivers and stand-over men Bert and Cec’, her household staff – Mr and Mrs Butler – her tomboy ward Jane, all under the management of her strait-laced secretary Dot. Along with this crowd she enlists the help of her lushy woman’s-doctor friend, “Mac”, Detective Jack Robinson and his staunch cohort Sergeant Hugh Collins, as well as her sometime lover and entree into Melbourne’s sinister Chinese underworld, Lin Chung.
The incorrigible Miss Fisher is the creation of Australian author Kerry Greenwood and her novels have recently been made over into a television series by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) to generally warm acclaim. In the books, Phryne is a bit more sexually-adventurous than she appears in the TV show, but this is no serious setback: the novels are written with the benefit of hindsight and an aim towards highlighting the moral and social inequities of the time, especially as regards women, on the one hand, and immigrants on the other. This revisionist approach is not a bad exemplar for Call of Cthulhu players, although one wishes that Greenwood’s plots –which generally, are a hodge-podge of ideas stolen from the pages of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham – could have been a little more original.