This image from a glass plate negative published in 1907 and entitled 'Pioneer Settler' depicts Lucy Sawtell and her children Edna, Ella (seated) and Ina in front of a cottage in the Dorrigo area of New South Wales. Throughout the 1800s and much of the 1900s women living and working on Australian farms were little acknowledged for their contribution. Often they physically helped their husbands to clear the land, build the house, and enclose the farm with heavy post and rail fences. They added the feminine touch to the interior of outback cottages, slab huts and even tents.
Once a cow had been purchased it was the women who looked after its milking, separating the cream and churning the butter. (Men on their own usually lived on salt, meat, rice, treacle and tea without milk.) Poultry were raised for eggs and both butter and milk were sold at the local store to buy small luxuries. Even up to the 1960s selling eggs, cream and butter to local shops was a way of making extra money for farmer's wives to buy small luxuries for themselves and extras for the children.
Many women had to work long and hard on selections. They were often left to run the farm while their husbands took on seasonal work like shearing or sugar cane cutting to boost their small incomes. Dust, drought, floods, heat, flies, loneliness and bushfires were regularly experienced and endured.
Margaret Simpson, Curator
Around 1905 large tracts of Crown Land in the Dorrigo area were subdivided for farming and it is likely that this image was taken during this settlement period.
Sandra McEwen, Curatorial, 2008
This photographic negative was published by the Sydney firm Charles Kerry & Co. and is part of the Powerhouse Museum's Tyrrell collection which contains over 2,900 glass plate negatives by Kerry & Co. Although a few appear to be from the 1880s most were produced between 1892 and 1917. Over this period, and well into the early 1900s, prints from these negatives appeared in many Australian publications and albums of views. In 1903 the company began producing postcards from these negatives, further establishing the images as some of the most significant and best known early views of New South Wales.
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, November 2008
David, Millar, Charles Kerry's Federation Australia, Sydney, David Ell Press, 1981