2nd Tuesday Evening Book Group – Great Pioneer Women of the Outback

At the May meeting the group discussed:

Great Pioneer Women of the Outback by Susanna DeVries

In the 1800s, the first white farmers and graziers making their homes in the outback were joined by their wives, many of whom had no idea what lay in store. Expecting a tropical paradise, these female pioneers encountered instead conditions which would test, and often defeat them; relentless heat and dust, isolation, hostile wildlife, the threat of rape and violence, no medical facilities and never ending, backbreaking work. The outback was, according to the mantra of the day, ‘no place for a lady’, and yet many women with no previous experience of hardship rose to the challenge, turning their skills to creating homes, nursing, farming, grazing – and recording their endeavours in diaries, which today provide a startling picture of the hurdles they faced. Great Pioneer Women of the Outback profiles Australia’s women pioneers, from Jeannie Gunn, author of We of the Never Never, to lesser known figures like Atlanta Bradshaw and Evelyn Maunsell. Building on her knowledge of Australian women’s history, Susanna de Vries’s book records the extraordinary grit and determination it took to build what many today would consider an ordinary life.

The central idea highlighted in the book is the fact that the women portrayed were so amazing and yet are so little know, if not completely unknown.

They were all integral to the success of the places that they ‘pioneered’ alongside their husbands.

All the women portrayed were happily married and willing to accompany them into the Outback to achieve shared dreams.

The Central theme of being resourceful, uncomplaining, brave and adaptable is very well depicted.

The book is filled with memorable moments, – humorous, touching and sad. The corroboree experience when the women were asked to wear shirts was particularly funny. A fact that the book highlights is the good relations  that of all the women had with the local Aboriginal people. Some recorded their language and stories and were integral to creating a permanent record of them for posterity.

Georgiana Molloy was vital to the samples and botanical knowledge of her local area, yet was not given credit until 80 years later.

All members found the book very interesting and would highly recommend it to others. It broadens the understanding of life as pioneer in our own country, in the not so distant past.

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