The women of the Dunstan goldfields and early Clyde township have been given a poetic voice by author Dr Robynanne Milford.
Dr Milford released her most recent collection of poetry at a function at the Central Stories Museum on November 23.
“Finding Voice: Women on the Dunstan 1860-1900” is her fourth poetry book and the second to use pioneering women as a theme.
Dr Milford was interested in Madame Mary Ann Feraud, the wife of early Central Otago winemaker John Feraud, and spend time in the Clyde Museum, researching her life, and from there began exploring the lives of other women in the Dunstan.
“I came to the conclusion I couldn’t find the women’s’ voices, or even often their names, and I wanted to redress the balance,” Dr Milford said.
While at the museum she found an 1866 map of Clyde, which showed where people of the time lived, where they went to church, and who had businesses, so she decided to use the information she found to give the women thoughts and voices through poems.
“There were some pretty gutsy women here,” she said.
She researched more than 60 women, some who she felt deserved a whole chapter in the book, including Emma George, who, when her husband died, ran the Dunstan Hotel.
And, she learned about Madame Feraud.
“I was very surprised how talented and how practical they were. They had to be a lot tougher then.”
She also published “Aspiring Light” in 2015, which focused on women of early Wanaka.
“It was like peeling onion skins off to get into the real layers of Wanaka,” she said.
Before that she published Grieve Hopefully in 2012 and Songcatcher in 2009.
As a medical professional she has also co-written text books and journal articles about sex abuse, and helped to develop national protocols for dealing with victims.
A former GP, she and her late husband spent about four years in a medical practice in Queenstown, and worked in Cromwell and Gore before they went to Christchurch.
She retired in 2014.
She has put folders in the Clyde and Central Stories museums so people can write their maternal stories.
“People know little bits about their history, and bringing the past alive, you get a real sense of belonging and finding out how we got to be where we are today.”
Dr Milford’s next book is about women artists married to artists. If anyone has any information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Milford included a reference to Hobart Town Annie who ran a sly grog shop at Drunken Women’s Gully. She did not know its location. If anyone knows anything more about this woman or where the gully was, we would love to hear from you.