Search on for letter writers
A La Trobe University lecturer in history would like to hear from women who wrote letters to the women’s pages of rural newspapers before 1945, or their family members.
Dr Ruth Ford, who is writing a book about women on farms and fruit blocks between 1901 and 1945, has hundreds of letters written to the Women’s Bureau, the women’s pages of the Weekly Times and would like to put a human face to the anonymous letters.
‘The letters tell a fascinating story about the lives of women on the land and it would be wonderful to add depth and colour to these stories by finding out about the actual women who wrote them’ said Dr Ford.
‘I’d love to hear from women over 80 years old who wrote letters before 1945 or from people whose mother, aunt or grandmother wrote letters in that period, if they know their (deceased) relative’s pen name.’
Dr Ford said her book is based on farm women’s letters to the women’s pages of rural newspapers, including letters to Miranda in the Weekly Times and to the Countryman. She would also welcome seeing unpublished letters (including pen-friend letters), scrapbooks, diaries and photographs.
The letters featured in Dr Ford’s book reveal a mixture of positive stories and the struggles experienced by farm women at the time.
When finished, the book will provide a valuable historical record of the lives of farm women in the period 1901 – 1945.
Community members who are willing to be interviewed or have letters, photographs, scrapbooks or diaries can contact Dr Ford by phone on 03 5444 7981, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing to Dr Ruth Ford, History Program, La Trobe University, PO Box 199, Bendigo, Victoria 3552.
See next page for selection of letters featured in the book/…
Killara [Spring 1932, to the Women’s Bureau, the women’s pages of the Weekly Times]
‘The wattles are in bloom, and bulbs looking gay in the garden, so winter is almost past. Crops are looking wonderfully well, and we are hoping for good times in the spring. What a lift-up all will get if the harvest is good and the price. The last few years have meant hard work and little for it. One has lots to be thankful for, especially on a farm, and even on a Mallee farm.
‘Another Machree’ [ Spring 1931 to the Women’s Bureau, the women’s pages of the Weekly Times]
‘The Mallee is looking lovely now. One would never know it – everything so fresh and green. We have had a lovely rain just lately, which is so badly needed.’
Mabbella [Spring 1931 to the Women’s Bureau, the women’s pages of the Weekly Times]
‘at present there are delightful wildflowers blooming in our scrub. We have six different varieties of wattles... ‘I am a lover of nature study and animals. To go for a gallop on a good horse is one of my special pleasures, and milking cows is not a drudgery to me, but a real delight. The cows are all pets’. The drudgery starts when I have to carry three four-gallon buckets of milk up to the separator, and when separated, out to the pigs and calves
‘Blue Bonnet Also’ [Winter 1935 to the Women’s Bureau, the women’s pages of the Weekly Times]
You can have the Mallee all on your own. I’ve lived in it for twenty-one years, and we’re worse off this year than when we started. The flies, mosquitoes and dust would drive any housekeeper grey. I never see sports, dances or picture shows. As for rain, it has forgotten how... the paddocks are brown, excepting on the sand hills, where oats are sown. Cattle will soon have to stand against the wire fence to keep themselves up. We don’t live in the Mallee, we just exist.
‘Mallee Patch’ [Summer 1939 to the Women’s Bureau, the women’s pages of the Weekly Times]
The drought is still going on, and there is very little harvest this year in this part of the Mallee. It is very hard for a working man to get work. My husband has been out of work since the first week in October, and we are finding things very hard indeed
Mary Lou [1932 to the Women’s Bureau, the women’s pages of the Weekly Times]
‘We live on a farm in the North-Western Mallee, and although there is not much to be made on one at the present, there are many places worse than on a Mallee farm. Ready money is very scarce, but one has a home and a few fowls, cows, and pigs, and not forgetting plenty of hard work and worrys (sik), but there are plenty worse off these days. We have just finished cropping, and have now declared “war on rabbits,” which are very bad at present.
‘Many Hard Times’ [1932 to the Women’s Bureau, the women’s pages of the Weekly Times]
I have lived in the Mallee for over 20 years, waiting to leave it as well off as we came. I work out in the paddock. I can drive a team in the plough as well as my husband. I cut shoots and do any farm work, but I have not driven a stripper. As my husband has not been well for years I often do his work and he does mine, though I am a long way over 50. I have a garden or, rather, a bit of one, but would like a few dahlias.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Zerin Knight, Ph (03) 5444 7375 F +613 5444 7526 M 0428 463 161