Sunday, August 10, 2008

celebrating strong women of the hills

What a great day I spent with some wonderful women of the hills. As part of the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage celebrations the Dandenong Ranges Music Council (DRMC) organised a history forum acknowledging the achievements of strong women of the hills. We heard some amazing stories about life back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. To survive in the Dandenongs then you really did need great strength and tenacity.

After the forum the floor was opened to participants to talk about their family experiences. One highlight was Mrs Doyle, a 91 year old from the Patch, who regaled with stories about her father and in particular one visit to the Lillydale Shire Hall to see Dame Nellie Melba on a very wet night, where Melba said “the angels are weeping because I’m going away from you”. To that Mrs Doyle pulled out a note to her father from Melba that she’d kept all this time.

A lady from the Ebbels family of Olinda spoke about life on the farm and how the girls of the family thought they were lucky because when they travelled to Box Hill Technical School they got home too late to milk the cows. I can only imagine the difficulties of getting to Box Hill from Olinda in those times.

It was a terrific learning experience and gave participants an insight into life in the hills at that time. The DRMC's program of events to celebrate the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage culminates in a grand finale at Burrinja on Saturday 8th November which will provide a musical and visual feast of local talent and prominent women of the region. If you’d like to know more contact the DRMC on 9754 6566.

Bev McAllister, me, Gwen De Lacy and Yvonne De Lacy. These ladies were the driving force behind the project and did a great job bringing our history to life. Bev is holding her copy of The Little Black Princess written by Mrs Aeneas (Jeannie) Gunn who was a significant woman in the region and worked tirelessly to support the servicemen of Monbulk who she referred to as 'my boys'.

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