1879: Personalities: Hattie Strathmore, Sydney Herald

In a month or so, this will be transformed into a Personalities dossier, complete with Connections, Adventure Hooks, and Goodies. In the meantime, here’s Miss Strathmore’s Backstory and character sheet.


Hattie Strathmore hasn’t gone round the world like Phileas Fogg in Mssr. Verne’s sensational novel, mostly because the paper she works for, the Sydney Herald (est. 1831, Australia’s longest running paper) doesn’t have the budget. It does send her all around the Pacific and well into Asia, as she covers business and political news from Singapore, Nanking, Hong Kong, and every other strategic port from Vladivostok down to Christchurch and from Ceylon west to Sapporo.

The rival Daily Telegraph made a bid for her just two years ago, notably after the Fever seized her and left her a snark, good on’em for standing up for a Boojum, but she stayed with the Herald. At 52, she’s getting a bit too long in the tooth to be moving to a brand new paper. If the Daily Telegraph had offered to match her seniority and pension, that might have been a different thing, or if they’d at least been in print long enough to wear the shiny off their presses, but no. Hattie has made her career at the Herald.

Fred Stanfield was managing editor when she started doing political and business stories, at a time when women were relegated to covering garden parties and art openings, and running the society page. He went to bat for her, said she had what it took and he was going to give her the chance to prove him right. She couldn’t let him down after that. There’s five awards on her office shelf to speak to her efforts. Last year, after she’d grown tusks and the Japanese port authorities didn’t want to let her off the boat in Niigata, Fred, now chief editor, made a telephone call to a Tokyo number, and someone from the ministry showed up with an apology, yelling at the port authority people and getting her escorted through entry and on her way. She never has found out who Fred embarrassed, but only a serious loss of face could drive something like that.

An editor being willing to trade that big a hole card for one reporter takes big risks, but you know he’s got your back, hope you know what you’re doing. Besides, if you change papers, your contacts will all want to know how their relationship is going to change, whether they’d still be paid the same, were there going to be more hoops to jump through or could they keep it all cash under the table, that sort of thing. The Daily Telegraph hadn’t had a trial by fire, either, and you never knew where a paper really stood until shots were fired. The Herald has bailed out so many reporters they keep a slush fund as a budget line item. It wasn’t cheap getting both the reporter and the photographer out, with half the photos they’d taken, when the Jementah civil war blew up in Malaysia last year. They had the bad luck to be in Munr, taking photos of the rebels, when the lines shifted, and the Johar government arrested them. But that’s for chapter five.
– Hattie Strathmore, In Her Own Words, Harper, Brace rev. 1880

Now, of course Hattie has been approached by the Foreign Office, along with at least five other intelligence services. Every political reporter, especially those who routinely travel to other nations, gets approached. Hattie says she’s turned them all down to preserve her journalistic integrity, and she probably has, but she is a loyal subject of the Queen, and her patriotism hasn’t been put to a serious public test as of yet. There’s also the option of someone sneaking an item into her suitcase, or sending a charm into a meeting disguised as part of her jewellery, hoping the big, burly Australian rancher’s daughter will draw enough attention on her own than nobody will look too closely at what she’s wearing.

She does dress fancy, having learned early on that being loud and colourful gave her something of an advantage socially. There’s also the pieces she’s collected along the way, that have symbolic, possibly political, significance, like the pearl and emerald brooch Governor Sir Frederick Weld gifted her upon her birthday. Wearing it puts the Straits Settlements at the forefront, and Singapore, their capital, on point. The long silk coat she habitually wears, lavishly embroidered and painted in an oceanscape of blues and greens with flashes of red corals and yellow fish, was given to her in Peking upon her installation as the Australian scribe to the court of the Guangxu Emperor. The fact that it’s bulletproof and has a few protective enchantments makes a comment about the risk a foreigner took attending the court, and the regent’s personal wish that no harm would come to her.

As for Hattie, she’s never married, never really even courted, and no, the usual rumours are hogwash, there’s not a lady friend in the picture either. She just doesn’t seem to have time for romantic interests. At this point, her main concern is that she’s getting old enough she ought to be running the desk, not be out in the field, but senior management won’t even consider putting a woman into a position with that kind of authority. If the Daily Telegraph were to offer her an editor’s desk, that would change the equation considerably. She might have to rethink her position.

Character Sheet

See the PDF, and note the following.

  • Her Profession abilities are:
    • +1 to Social Defense (reflected on the character sheet)
    • Karma for PER-only Tests
    • Recovery Step +1 (reflected on the character sheet)
    • Making Headlines
  • Money reflected on her character sheet is her personal funds. Hattie has an expense account, and can get reimbursement for most smaller charges, but has to front the capital in those cases. In a crisis, she can telegraph her paper, or call them up if telephone lines are available, and get authorization for large items, like a last minute airship ticket from Taipei to Bangkok, charged directly to the Herald. These must be directly related to a story, as the paper will charge them off against the edition.

Tally Ho!