Women stand tall in the for­est

Hills Gazette (Kalamunda) - - NEWS - Sarah Brookes

AN all-fe­male fire gang op­er­at­ing out of Sawyers Val­ley dur­ing World War II is one of the many sto­ries cap­tured in a new book ded­i­cated to women who worked or lived in WA forests.

For­est his­to­rian Roger Un­der­wood said Women of the For­est was a col­lec­tion of 32 first-per­son sto­ries writ­ten by women foresters, rangers or fire look­outs and the wives or daugh­ters of forestry men.

“One of the most dra­matic is the ac­count of the first all-woman fire gang that op­er­ated out of Sawyers Val­ley dur­ing the 1940s while the men­folk were away in the armed ser­vices,” he said.

“The crew fought bush­fires, con­ducted con­trolled burns and other for­est work, such as tele­phone and fire­break main­te­nance.

“The book also con­tains an in­ter­est­ing story from Betty Rhodes, wife and mother of an ex­tended forestry fam­ily and a long-time res­i­dent at Mun­dar­ing Weir.

“She de­scribes her life in a forestry set­tle­ment, the tri­als and wor­ries of hus­bands and sons be­ing away fight­ing fires and also the good times with the strong ca­ma­raderie in small bush set­tle­ments.

“She also had her own brush with fire and was lucky to sur­vive.”

Mr Un­der­wood said the sto­ries re­vealed the courage of bush women.

“Kala­munda’s Glo­ria Will­mott was caught in Dwellingup the night the town burnt down in 1961 and pays trib­ute to her brave mother, who took charge and pro­tected her fam­ily in time of cri­sis,” he said.

“Many women re­mem­ber their youth­ful ad­ven­tures work­ing on fire look­outs, in­clud­ing the great tree look­outs of the karri coun­try.

“Oth­ers tell of the chal­lenges faced by the first women forestry of­fi­cers, break­ing into a man’s world.”

Roger Un­der­wood.

Women turn out to help their men­folk de­fend their town from a bushfire in the jar­rah for­est.

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