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Bluestocking in Patagonia
Mary Gilmore's Quest for Love and Utopia at the World's End
Anne Whitehead
9781925283617
2018-05-30
A$9.99
King Tide Publishing

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In the 1890s in a bizarre social experiment, a band of over 500 Australians - mostly men and just three single women - sailed to South America to create a communal Utopia, a New Australia, in the jungles of Paraguay. One of them was a red-headed schoolteacher Mary Cameron, a poet and feminist, who left the writer Henry Lawson behind, despairing on the wharf. Politics in the Australian colony were soon tumultuous. Mary, rejected by one man she loved, married another, had a son, and she and her near-illiterate shearer husband Will Gilmore left Paraguay for the vast Patagonian sheep estancias of southern Argentina to earn their passages home.
Anne Whitehead chronicles the full history of the Australian experiment in Paraguay, including an account of the descendants of those who remained, in her award-winning Paradise Mislaid: In Search of the Australian Tribe of Paraguay (1998). In this second work she focuses on Mary's four years at the colony and, in particular, on her two fraught and previously little-known years in Patagonia.
Mary's independent spirit soon offended the strict rules of the estancia ruling class and she was forced to leave her husband for the tough frontier town of Río Gallegos. Speaking little Spanish, she supported her child for almost six months. Dame Mary later became an Australian national icon, campaigned for many causes including Aboriginal rights and she is on the $10 note today.
In a remarkable blend of biography and travel writing, Anne Whitehead follows in Mary's footsteps in South America, searching out places where she lived and traces of her stay, during a period of severe economic depression and political repression in Argentina, just as there was in Mary's experience. She brings to life a testing time in one of the harshest places on earth.
'Patagonia is a rich source of curious incidents and eccentric people, and Whitehead makes the most of these, describing the Welsh towns of Trelew and Puerto Madryn... a robbery pulled off by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Charles Darwin's forays from the Beagle; W.H. Hudson's delight in the birds of the region, and the search for the giant sloth carried out by Mr Hesketh Prichard of the Daily Express. She mentions Bruce Chatwin, who turned up unannounced at the great estancia of Killik Aike, where the Gilmores had lived for some months, only to be sent away "with a flea in his ear" by its current owners. Mary Gilmore left Killik Aike abruptly too... [Her] letters reflect a courageous, resourceful and strong-willed woman... "Yea! I have lived" was how she began one poem, and reading Anne Whitehead's spry account of her life, it is hard not to agree.' - Times Literary Supplement
'I quickly fell under the spell of Whitehead's intelligent writing... a biography that compassionately embraces the artistic, emotional and political aspect of Mary Gilmore's life' - Age
'This splendid and fascinating book is brilliantly balanced as part memoir, part well-researched recreation of the young Mary Gilmore as inamorata of Henry Lawson, as radical wife, Paraguayan and Patagonian settler, and as abidingly Australian soul.' - Thomas Keneally
'Bluestocking in Patagonia is a very beautiful book. In the first place, Whitehead writes with considerable flair, and with a fine eye for detail. The text is intelligently crafted, switching between Australia and South America, past and present, self and other... Yet Bluestocking in Patagonia is important for other reasons. This book is as much about Whitehead's effort to retrace Gilmore's steps as about Gilmore herself and is, in this respect, a fine blend of history and travel writing: a combination we also find in Whitehead's earlier book on the Paraguaya


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Paradise Mislaid
In Search of the Australian Tribe of Paraguay
Anne Whitehead
9781925283600
2018-05-30
A$9.99
King Tide Publishing

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Description:

In the 1890s after a period of social unrest, a brave band of Australians sailed from Sydney to found a communal Utopia in South America. Under the charismatic journalist William Lane, over 500 settlers, including poet Mary Gilmore, created a New Australia in the Paraguayan jungle. Their hopes soon collapsed. Many returned home. Others stayed, becoming part of the culture of their adopted country. They learned about Paraguay's Jesuit missions of the 17th and 18th centuries, perhaps the world's most successful communal settlements which were disbanded in violence, the country's catastrophic wars, its revolutions, its repressive dictators, and about another communal experiment led by Elisabeth Nietzsche and Bernhard Forster to create an Aryan master race.
Anne Whitehead made three journeys to Paraguay over 12 years and, in a vivid blend of biography and travel writing, uncovers stories of the original colonists and their descendants. Some fought for the British Empire in World War I, others defended Paraguay against Bolivia in the 1932-35 Chaco War; they witnessed the arrival of Nazi war criminals, the manhunt of forest Indians and endured the 35-year dictatorship of President Alfredo Stroessner.
Paradise Mislaid won the 1998 NSW Premier's Award for Australian History. Judges' citation: 'An erudite, beautifully researched work of history which knits together the stories of Paraguay and Australian emigration as a quest for Utopia... Whitehead utilises material which was not available to earlier historians. She also takes to heart the well-known adage that a tolerable pair of boots is essential for an historian, and retraces the steps of the original "New Australians" and their descendants. The result is a beautifully-crafted historical and contemporary travelogue.'
'One of the most bizarre stories in Australian history - splendidly told by one of our master story-tellers.' - Frank Moorhouse
'A superb blend of travel writing and history, during which Whitehead casts her discerning eye on the present, with pertinent excursions to the past. This personal odyssey has resulted in a wonderful, rambunctuous, passionate, picaresque narrative that combines meticulous research with compelling personal stories and acute observation. One is swept irresistibly along.' - Tim Bowden, Sydney Morning Herald
'Whitehead has produced a travel book within a carefully researched and densely documented historical frame extending across 600 pages. She is a skillful raconteur and the reader is carried along, largely unmindful that she has used the "Australian Tribe" as a peg on which to suspend her personal reminiscences of Paraguay. Her style strongly resembles the work of Paul Theroux and V.S. Naipaul.' - Transforming Anthropology
'The descendants of the tribe are a fascinating cross-section... Inevitably to follow the families is to create a portrait of Paraguayan life in the past century - a distinct mixture of good times, bad times, of dictators and war. To understand those years, the history of the country has to be traversed. Whitehead does all this with skill and understanding. She has probably the best written account of the Jesuit communes, where the Jesuits defended their converts from the slave traders, communes which lasted two hundred years, almost as long as European settlement in Australia.' - Richard Hall, Australian Book Review
'An exhaustive yet entertaining piece of historical detective work which is at once authoritative, scholarly and delightfully chatty... due to Whitehead's own indefatigable physical adventures, it's also a travel adventure to rival Bruce Chatwin's wanderings.' - The Leader
'Whitehead's book, winner of the

 

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