Fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight

Shepparton News - Country News - - WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE -

Aus­tralian pioneer John Macarthur once graced the $2 note in ac­knowl­edge­ment of his role in de­vel­op­ing the early wool in­dus­try, but the role his wife El­iz­a­beth played has some­times been over­looked.

She mar­ried the English army of­fi­cer in 1788 and they mi­grated to the new colony of NSW in 1790 on the sec­ond fleet; she was the first wife of an of­fi­cer to make the voy­age.

While John Macarthur took credit for es­tab­lish­ing the Aus­tralian wool in­dus­try, it was prac­ti­cal El­iz­a­beth who man­aged their hold­ings while deal­ing with the re­sults of John’s ma­nias: du­els, quar­rels, court cases, a mil­i­tary coup, long ab­sences over­seas, grandiose con­struc­tion projects and, fi­nally, his de­scent into cer­ti­fied in­san­ity.

Writer Michelle Scott Tucker re­searched El­iz­a­beth’s role in the fledgeling in­dus­try and un­cov­ered a fas­ci­nat­ing story which has been his­tor­i­cally glossed over.

El­iz­a­beth Macarthur en­dured pri­va­tions and hard­ships, in­clud­ing the loss of an in­fant baby on the voy­age to NSW, long pe­ri­ods of her hus­band’s ab­sence from the farm, threats from an up­ris­ing in the colony, famine and a pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety which gave a woman lit­tle au­thor­ity.

The prop­erty es­tab­lished at Cam­den (for­merly Cow­pas­tures) still op­er­ates as a farm today.

Michelle Scott Tucker’s book El­iz­a­beth Macarthur — a Life at the Edge of the World is from Text Pub­lish­ing and is avail­able now.

Michelle Scott Tucker

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