This week in Esther’s story, we break away from the whaling logbook where we first found her as a five year old girl. Now we’ll trace her and her parents through two institutions which housed the most vulnerable people in Hobart in the 1870s – the Brickfields Invalid Depot and the Cascades Establishment. To piece that story together, we have to jump forward and backward in time a little bit, but I promise it is worth the journey!
“Cross Street, Sandy Bay Road,” “Be a good girl, Esther,” “Esther shall not go out again,” “Bombay is in Asia, ABC,” “Evil communication corrupts,” “Love your grandmother Esther” – each of these were written over and over again in a whaler’s logbook, and signed “Esther Mary Paul” in November or December, 1865. What was little Esther doing writing these lines, in -between and alongside the records of her uncle and aunt’s adventures at sea long before she was born? Was she being educated or punished, or both? Where was she living and why was she there? In this continuing story of little Esther Mary Paul and the whaling logbook in the Crowther Collection, we’ll try to piece together Esther’s young life. It’s a tale of sorrow, struggle, and abandonment, but also of strength, resilience, and love.
In November of 1865, a five year old girl named Esther sat in a house in Sandy Bay, writing lines in a small, leather-bound book. Some days, she had geography lessons. Some days, she was in trouble. Some days, she just needed to memorize her new address. Two months came and went, and the little girl wrote line after line. Her notebook had once belonged to her Uncle William, and recorded his whaling voyages to the Pacific Ocean and the Timor Sea. In the spaces in-between the stories of whales and gales, little Esther did her school work. So did her Aunt Charlotte, who copied out poems and ballads for the little girl to memorize. Aunt Charlotte knew that logbook well, for it was the record of her own honeymoon at sea, nine years earlier. Now it became a part of a different family story – of tragedy, loss, love, abandonment, and survival.
Esther’s Story is actually the story of three nineteenth-century women: Esther Mary Paul (Lithgow), her mother Cecilia Eliza (Rowland) Paul, and her aunt Charlotte Ann (Rowland) Jacobs. Over Family History Month, we’ll follow these women through three blogs and fifty years of their lives, using digital collections together with library and archival resources. It’s a tale of adventure, improvisation, and resilience, but it’s also something else. It’s a reminder – of how our own historical present can change how we think about the past. Read on to discover more.
What would you have learned at a Tasmanian public school in 1869? Mostly, just reading, writing and arithmetic, from a teacher not much older than yourself, in a class of 40-60 students, and in a textbook that your grandfather might have read in Ireland thirty years earlier. The texts might have been boring and out of date, but the reasons why are fascinating. That’s because the public school curriculum in 1869 was deliberately designed to be bland and uninteresting, in order to avoid social conflict. What follows is the story of a journey – from the idea that education needed to reform and contain children, to the radical idea that children in public schools should be inspired to learn, and to become curious and informed citizens. Read on to discover more!
For an audio introduction to this story, check out our interview with ABC Radio!
On the evening 11th of November, 1918, everyone in Tasmania was holding their breath. At any moment, news of the Armistice – the official end of the War – was expected. Every minute must have been agony. In an era where news could flash from one end of the world to the other in mere seconds, when men had taken to the skies, when pictures could move, and while men were still dying in the mud of Flanders, this waiting was torture. But it was all you could do – stand outside the newspaper offices, bite your nails, and wait, wait, wait. This story is about the moment that the wait stopped, and a roar of joy erupted before the guns on the Western Front finally fell silent.
At the foot of Mount Wellington stands the remains of a forbidding institution. Nearly two centuries ago, the walls of the Cascades Female Factory housed hundreds of women, children and babies. Some of these convict women were waiting to go to new masters, others were being punished. Now you can help to tell their stories through our newest digital volunteering project, transcribing the Register of Female Convicts at the Cascades Female Factory, 1833-1834.
The next time you’re in Franklin Square, consider this: you’re standing on an air raid shelter. In 1942, the ground beneath your feet was dug up by Civil Defence Force volunteers – ordinary Hobart residents protecting their neighbours, families, and friends from enemy attack. All around Tasmania, people were digging shelters – in their backyards, at their children’s schools, and in public parks. It’s an amazing story of spirit and pluck in a time of darkness.
At the end of National Volunteers Week, we wanted to take a moment both to thank our volunteers, and to highlight a new collection that tells stories of volunteering in Tasmania’s historic and wild places. These are the photograph albums of Trauti and David Reynolds, which document their volunteer and conservation work around Tasmania over many years. Thanks to their generous donation, these albums are now digitized and available to everyone.
Have you ever driven past the Alexandra Battery in Sandy Bay and wondered what it was for? Have you ever heard rumours of a planned Russian invasion of Tasmania in the 19th century? As Anzac Day approaches, we’d like to share the story of the Southern Volunteer Artillery Regiment with you. Thanks to our new corps of online volunteers, we can now tell this amazing story in a new way, preserve it for future generations, and maybe even link it to your own family history. Intrigued? Want to get involved? Read on!
Almost a century ago, two Tasmanian women wrote and produced a lost classic of Australian cinema. Set in the osmiridium mining fields of Tasmania’s Western Wilderness, Jewelled Nights was one of the first productions of its kind, created by the novelist Marie Bjelke Petersen and the silent film actress Louise Lovelyin 1924.