Review Blog

May 12 2017

Looking for Rose Paterson: How family bush life nurtured Banjo the poet by Jennifer Gall

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National Library of Australia Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9780642278920
Highly recommended. Themes: 19th Century Australia; Pioneer life; Women in Early Australian history; Banjo Paterson. This is an absolute gem! Jennifer Gall discusses the life and letters of Rose Paterson, the mother of Banjo Paterson, and has allowed us to enter into the daily life of a woman of wit and incredible fortitude. Rose was born in 1844, and the times were very different for women. Jennifer Gall makes comment on the strengths and circumstances of this amazing woman - one among many of the time - whose documenting of her life and family circumstances in rural NSW, in her letters to her younger sister, gives us a glimpse of the limits and restrictions of women of the times, and also their joys. Because of a series of difficult financial circumstances her family wealth was not what she might have expected. She was bound to be financially dependent on her husband, with a continuous responsibility for making a home suited to raising a growing family, and having sole responsibility for the education and welfare of those children while her husband was away. Into this social position, with the added impositions of limited healthcare, domestic burdens, and implied loneliness, we meet a woman of intellect, who is a faithful and lively correspondent to her sister.
Jennifer Gall has unwoven the one-sided conversations from the thread of her letters and put them into a historical framework, but she has also revealed the attitudes and humanity of the mother of one of Australia's iconic Bush poets. The collection of photographs, art reproductions, historical sources, Banjo Paterson poetry references and excerpts from the letters (alongside copies of those Primary sources) is a historical treasure. And this is so pleasurable to read! The discovery of Banjo Paterson's influences and his upbringing is worth reading, as is the brief glimpse into farming, childbirth, education, social life and women's rights from the very personal perspective of one woman in the late 1800s.
Carolyn Hull

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