There have been many women over the more than 200 years of settlement in the Liverpool area who have contributed a great deal to the society which ahs grown over time. These women may not have made the history books, but what they did or accomplished is more than worthy of mentioning, and therefore remembering. Among these are women are some well known names, some less well known and some little known. They included mothers, convict wives and women who fought for their rights in court.
Maria was daughter of Yarramundi, ‘Chief of the Richmond Tribes’. The family belonged to the Boorooberongal clan of the D(h)arug people. On 28 December 1814 Yarramundi’s clan attended the inaugural annual conference hosted for the Aborigines by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. On the same date, Maria entered The Native Institution, set up to educate the children of Aboriginal people to ‘the ways of the white people’. Maria became the top student in her exams in 1819 Maria was reported in the Sydney Gazette, which reported that “an Aboriginal girl of 14 had won first prize in the anniversary school examination, ahead of twenty children from the Native Institution and almost 100 European students”.
At the end of 1822 Maria married Dicky, a son of Bennelong and a member of the Richmond clan through his mother. Dicky died within weeks of her marriage. When she was only 16 (1824), she married her second husband (Robert Lock), a convict who had been working at the institute. This was the first officially sanctioned marriage between an Aboriginal woman and a British convict, very unusual in that Robert was assigned to her.
At the time of her marriage, Maria was promised ‘a small Grant of Land and a Cow as a Marriage Portion’. She had received a cow, but not the grant of land. Maria continued her trend of firsts when she used her education skills to fight for the land. In 1831 forty acres (16.2 ha) ‘as near to your present residence as suitable vacant land can be found’ were granted to Robert on Maria’s behalf, but Cartwright frustrated this claim, as he felt it was injurious to the established buildings on his adjoining allotment. Maria persisted, and in 1833 another forty acres was granted to her at Liverpool in Robert’s name (along Brickmakers Creek to where the Council Chambers are today). In March 1831, Maria also petitioned Governor Darling for her deceased brother Coley’s (Colebee) grant at Blacktown, (which had been granted in partnership with Nurragingy in 1819, and was the first land grant given to an Aboriginal person or group in Australia.) opposite the Native Institution. She received Colebee’s thirty-acre (12.1 ha) grant in 1843.
Rachel Turner arrived in the colony as a prisoner on the convict ship, Lady Juliana. She became housekeeper for surgeon John White who left the colony shortly after the birth of their illegitimate son, leaving Rachel and her son well cared for. Rachel and Thomas Moore (boat builder) were married in 1797 by Reverend Richard Johnson, possibly in the first church he built at Church Hill. In 1805 Thomas Moore was granted 300 hectares. It was from the home of Rachel and Thomas that Governor Macquarie set out to found the town of Liverpool.
Sarah Howe came to the colony in 1799 on the transport Hillsborough with her husband, Edward Wills, who was a convict under a life sentence. As a free woman, she opened a store, and when her husband was pardoned in 1802 he became involved in the business. Edward died in 1811, leaving their considerable business interests to Sarah.
In 1812 Sarah married George Howe, the printer, who was already the father of five. Four of these children had been borne to his mistress after the death of George’s first wife. Sarah made sure her fortune was secure by arranging male trustees to administer her property. Sarah helped George by paying off a promissory note and also paying for the extension of his business in George Street. However an official grant made for the land was solely in George’s name. A week before George died in 1821, he revoked his will, leaving all to his children (including one child born to Sarah and George), but nothing to Sarah’s children from her first marriage. Sarah contested this in court for 10 years. Sarah won the court application, but the decision was not made til many years after her death in 1823.
Christiana Brooks came from England in 1823 with her husband and seven children, and moved to Denham Court. Christiana kept a diary of these times, but the diary didn’t contain the usual family doings.
Christiana wrote about the issues of the day. She wrote about Governor Darling, the composition of the government, education, bushrangers, banks, imigration and the need for the Governor to issue land rights. She also wrote about the Aborigines,“… hostility on the part of the Natives will I have no doubt be found, as it ever has been, to originate in outrages committed on them by the stock keepers, an ignorant and brutal race, who by their interference with the females of the aborigines
Christiana latter wrote in her diary after a series of incidents” As these natives have never before been known to proceed to such extremities, there is reason to think some MOTIVE must exist for their present warfare… perhaps our people have been the first aggressors, or possibly want of food may drive them to desperate measures, for it is a fact well known that wherever our stockman abide, the Kangaroos and Possums disappear”.
Although Mary Vidal spent only five years in NSW, some describe her as Australia’s first novelist. Arriving in Australia with her husband, Francis Vidal (a clergy man), in 1840. They bought a farm at what was then called Cabramatta (now called Rossmore). Mary Vidal wrote a book ‘Tales of the Bush’ which was written in parts for her staff, and was published in Sydney. The heroines were mostly servants whose mistress was always a kindly and generous lady, though the warnings were moralistic, instructing Christian values, etc. “There is little in the tales to connect them with Australia, and their theme and tone reflect the author’s English upbringing rather than any Australian influence”. Her second Australian Novel was titled ‘The Cabramatta Store’ and was set in the Nepean district. It was published as part of a volume titled Cabramatta, and Woodleigh Farm, the second part, a short novel Woodleigh Farm, was set in England. The profits derived from its sale were offered to the bishop of Sydney for the cathedral fund. The Cabramatta Store is sub-titled A Tale of the Bush and is a series of vignettes reflecting the growth and conditions of Australia at that time. Mostly it deals with the school, domestic and church life of the locality, mentioning only briefly the more dramatic elements of bushrangers, drought and bush fires, which were later to become a feature of so much early Australian fiction. For more information about Vidal’s publications, you could try this website: http://adbonline.anu.edu.au
When Helen Hart from Womanhood Suffrage League came to Liverpool in 1901 to give a public lecture no one came so the meeting was cancelled. The Liverpool area had been returning ‘Free Traders’ of what was then the Liberal Party members to parliament for some time. This party did not agree with the idea of women voting. To go to the meeting would have been to go against their male family members. Commonwealth and State parliaments gave women the vote in 1902, some said women of Liverpool didn’t want to vote. 3 months after the NSW Act and 6 months after the Commonwealth Act, only 3 women had applied to vote.
Hilda Davis was born Hilda George in Quirindi in 1987 and married Reginald Davis in 1908. She was a school teacher for many years, and retired to Liverpool. At Liverpool she was the original organising secretary of the Senior Citizen club. In 1965 ‘Nan’ (as she was often known) was awarded a certificate for her work in the Blind Book Appeal and in 1972 was co-winner of the Senior Citizen of the Year Quest. She was awarded the British Empire Medal and was presented with the Shield of Liverpool City in 1975. At Liverpool’s first Heritage Awards she received a gold citation. She retired from her position as secretary of the Club at age 94. Hilda died in 1986 at the age of 99.
Many of the older residents of Liverpool remember Nurse Healy because she delivered them or their child. In 1930 Agnes began hr twelve months training as a mid-wife at St Margaret’s Hospital. Her first case in Liverpool was at Casula. Later Nurse Healy bought her own car and covered areas including Macquarie Fields, Hoxton Park, Hammondville and Warwick Farm. After a baby was born Nurse Healy would visit the mother and baby twice day for 10 to 12 days. Her fees for a home confinement were 4 guineas, and during the Depression instead of Nurse Healy collecting a fee, Agnes’s mother would pack a basket of food for the children. Nurse Healy continued her midwifery work for nearly 30 years. She died in 1989 at the age of 92.
In 1975 Sister Vincent was awarded the British Empire Medal for her work on the motor mission, which involved Catholic instruction in State schools. Sister Vincent came to the Liverpool Parish in 1955, to the Mount Pritchard Catholic Primary School, where she and Sister Xavier taught the children. In 1960 Sister Vincent started the Motor Mission, where she drove to different schools and gave religious instructions to prepare children for their First Holy Communion. The work of the Motor Mission included teaching scripture in schools from Chipping Norton to Austral. Her work continued until her retirement 1986, at the age of 82.
Some people were rather worried when, in December 1962, Mrs Annie Louise Collins was elected as an Alderman of the City of Liverpool. There had never been a woman on council before, and many wondered how she would handle her fellow alderman. It has been said that she held her own in any debate, and brought “that bit of feminism” that had not been there before. In 1967 she was elected as Deputy Mayor of Liverpool. Annie Louise Collins was significant in many fields both in and out of council.
Olive Trenchard married Ward Havard in 1926. Olive and Ward shared a deep interest in the history of Liverpool, where Ward had spent most of his early life at the historic homestead ‘Bernera’. They co-published in 1939 “Liverpool: the Story of a Historic Town”. Olive was very involved in the retention of many historic buildings, including Collingwood Homestead. The family settled permanently at Bernera in 1944, restoring the house to its original features. Bernera was sold in 1985 because of Olive’s frail health and the cost of maintaining the historic building. Bernera was destroyed by arson in 1986.