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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/927416
- My mate Ellen: cross-cultural friendship between women in a 'pioneer memoir'
- The University of Newcastle. Faculty of Education & Arts, School of Humanities and Social Science
- MINNIE BREWER, nee Hunter, (1853-1934) was well into her memoirs when she first introduced the Indigenous woman she had known, when she was a young woman living on a pastoral property in central western New South Wales in the 1870s. 'I forgot to mention how I met my little black mate Ellen', she wrote, as if suddenly realising her oversight: Very early one morning I went into one of the rooms [of the house] where all sorts of odd things were huddled together on the floor I caught hold of a rooled [rolled] up mattress & out tumbled the tiniest human being I had ever seen, with a black curlie head. We nearly frightened each other to death, it was so unexpected & she poor thing had been sound asleep.' Ellen, and another woman, her sister Amelia, would make a number of further 'unexpected' appearances in Minnie Brewer's narrative, depicted with a refreshing individuality and, despite an undeniable element of racist paternalism, a sense of humanity that is often lacking in other colonial accounts of cross-cultural encounters. The episodes in which they appear are also closely tied to the landscape of the country that Minnie admired without reservation, particularly the river. In this respect Minnie Brewer's memoirs, and particularly her depiction of Ellen as her 'mate' and Amelia as her protector, provide a unique glimpse of the shared space of cross-cultural histories, and a sense of the possibilities and limitations for female friendships across the racial and social divide of colonial Australia.
- La Trobe Journal Vol. 85, p. 70-82, 189-192
- State Library of Victoria Foundation
- Resource Type
- journal article