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Have you got Louisa's dress?

The formal launch of Last Woman Hanged was held in a lovely, sandstone-walled room at the Gallipoli Club in Sydney's CBD last night, Monday 27 October 2014.

Our host was The Sydney Institute. We had a full house, and sold every book.

Louisa's story has captured the imagination of so many people.

My own family was there, as were at least 11 direct descendants of the last woman hanged, Louisa Collins.

Also present: the gorgeous Rebecca Pettit and her family. Rebecca has been researching Louisa's story for years. She is descended from Ellen Pettit, who lived in the same street as Louisa.

Ellen was present when Michael Collins died, and she later gave a statement to police.

It seems that she was also a very kind woman: apparently, Louisa didn't have a dress to wear to court, and so Ellen lent her something pretty.

Louisa wore Ellen's pretty dress for many days and weeks, but because she was never released from gaol - she endured four trials, before being hanged - the dress never came home.

Some years later, some entrepreneurs started a touring exhibition of wax figures, much like Madame Tussauds, and they included a wax figure of Lousia Collins.


She was in a room with wax figures of other notorious criminals. According to family legend, the wax figure of Louisa was wearing Ellen's dress.

What became of it? Rebecca's family would love to know. She's tried State arhives; she's tried the local office of Madame Tussauds; she's tried everywhere. Does anyone have any ideas?

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