Otago's Trailblazer, Isabel Turnbull: The University of Otago’s first female Humanities lecturer
By Gwynaeth McIntyre and Tyler Broome
Mary Isabel Turnbull was born on 28 February, 1895 in Greymouth to Sarah Ann Blewett (of Cornish origin; born in Australia) and William Turnbull (from Linlithgow, Scotland). Her family settled in Dunedin in 1896. She enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Otago in 1913. Her course primarily consisted of Latin and French courses, but also included some English and Political Economics classes. In 1916, Isabel began her BA Honours studies in Latin and French. At the time, the University of New Zealand had a provision whereby a student who received First Class passes in a subject at Honours level could be awarded an MA; Isabel was awarded hers in 1917.
Teaching and Career
From 1915-1917, Isabel was hired as the assistant to the Lecturer in Latin, Professor Thomas Dagger Adams: a role which seems mostly to have consisted of marking with some lecturing, like a modern tutor. At the end of 1917, when Prof. Adams enlisted for military service, there was a scramble to find a suitable replacement. Newspaper reports of several Military Service Board meetings illuminate the discussions: They were looking for a man, and recognised that while Isabel had been “assisting” Mr Adams, “a girl of 20 could not be expected to take up the work if Mr Adams went”.
Ultimately, on Prof. Adams’ recommendation, Isabel was asked to teach the Senior and Advanced Latin classes. This would be extended to include the Junior and Honours classes the following year, for a total of 54 students across all classes.
Another significant aspect of her time as acting lecturer In Prof. Adam’s absence was her appointment to the Professorial Board in April of 1918.
This Board was one of the governing bodies of the University, responsible for setting lecture and examination schedules, and consulting with the University Council on any matter of importance. Thomas Adams had been on the board for a few years prior to his actual appointment to Professor in 1917, and so Isabel was brought into these meetings to occupy the role normally filled by the head of Classics. She was one of only two women on the board at the time – the other being Professor Winifred Boys-Smith of Home Sciences – and she was the only woman from outside of Home Sciences to sit on the Professorial Board for at least a few decades. The visual of this image is very telling: a young, recently graduated woman involved in the high-level administration traditionally dominated by older men.
After Professor Adams’ return to teaching in 1920, it becomes a little more difficult to identify specific details about Isabel’s teaching. Her Latin classes spanned a range of texts from authors such as Virgil, Cicero, Livy, Horace, Sallust, and Plautus. In addition to teaching the language itself, the examination topics set by the University of New Zealand would have required Isabel to provide background on the Late Republic and 1st century Imperial periods, effectively combining a modern language and history course. It is clear that at some point (perhaps quite early on) Isabel became involved with the running of the Greek History, Art and Literature (HAL) course. Introduced in 1922, this was the first Classics course in New Zealand which did not require knowledge of the ancient languages, and marked a significant step toward reducing the barriers toward Classical Studies for the typical student. In 1927-1928, Isabel registered with the British School at Athens, taking a trip to Greece and Constantinople to gather material for the teaching of the HAL course.
Isabel remained a fixture of Otago’s Classics Department until her retirement in 1950, aged 55 – the compulsory age of retirement for women in teaching at the time. Her 35-year career was one of the longest for any academic in the Humanities at Otago at that time.
Museum, Research, and Public Engagement
During her career, Isabel had some involvement in the Otago Museum’s Greek and Roman coin collection. She appears to have been responsible for cataloguing the Troas, Aeolis, Lesbos, Central Greece, and Euboea Greek coins and she gave a paper at the Royal Numismatic Society of NZ, which was then published the year after her retirement (1951), on “Greek Coins from the Fels Collection in the Otago Museum.”
Isabel gave a number of public lectures over the course of her career. Topics ranged from Homer’s Odyssey and the myths of Plato, to daily life in Greece and Rome, to Classical reception and modern comparisons (“Virgil’s influence on Tennyson”; “The Roman Empire, old and new” which compared the Roman empire with Mussolini’s developing fascist government in Italy). In later years, Isabel delivered educational lectures over Dunedin’s 4YA national radio station on a number of topics related to women in the ancient world, particular authors (such as Seneca and Pliny the Younger) as well as “myth-busting” popular fallacies (‘That the Ancient Britons Were Savages’). These lectures were nationally broadcast, and made up a core part of New Zealand’s early broadcasting history.
Isabel presented a more nuanced view of women’s role in ancient society than the traditional point of view and she was at the forefront of new attitudes towards women’s roles in the ancient world and in modern academia.
"The fact that people instinctively shrink from the thought of the Imperial Roman matron in her splendour and virtue was one that had to be taken into consideration by the lecturer, who explained it as being due to three main causes – the transformation of Rome from a simple agricultural State to a great empire; the influence of Greek literature which taught the Romans love of rhetoric; and the ideal of stoicism borrowed from Greek philosophy. Her descriptions of the women of literature and history, however, were so aptly chosen that the impression given to the audience was that the Roman woman was a very human creature, the women presented including characters from the comedian Plautus – both matrons and otherwise – from the letters of Cicero and Pliny, and from history, especially the noble Livia and her ignoble stepdaughter Julia."
(Otago Daily Times, 27 July 1934, page 16)
Member and Leader of Academic and Women’s Societies
Isabel was closely involved in several academic societies during her career. She was the Honorary Secretary of the Archaeological Section of the Otago Institute (now part of the Royal Society of New Zealand) at its first general meeting in 1921, and held this role until at least 1923. She was also involved in the founding of the Otago Classical Association, and served on its committee throughout her career. Isabel was also on the Council of the Association of Friends of the Otago Museum, from its inception in 1926.
As the first female academic in the Humanities at the University of Otago, Isabel was involved at an early stage in some of Otago and New Zealand’s women’s societies. She was active in the Otago University Women’s Association (OUWA, est. 1914) as early as 1916, where she was appointed to assist new female students in the Arts Faculty in a mentoring capacity. She was later elected to the OUWA committee in 1917. She was also involved in early discussions regarding the New Zealand Federation of University Women (NZ FUW), in particular regarding its integration with the OUWA.
She later held notable roles in the Otago branch of the NZ FUW, joining its committee in 1937, before becoming vice-president in 1940, then president from 1941-1942. In this capacity, she was responsible for maintaining connections with other branches of the NZ FUW and the International Federation of University Women, as well as promoting collegiality among Otago’s women graduates through regular meetings, and an afternoon tea for recent graduates.
Isabel was quite the trailblazer, working in places where no woman had worked before, and serving as a role-model for the women who came after her. She almost single-handedly managed the Classics teaching program for 3 years and, together with Prof. Adams, laid the groundwork for what Classics at Otago would become. In addition to her other contributions, she was instrumental in bringing the study of women in the ancient world to both an academic and a public audience in Dunedin, New Zealand, and far beyond. Yet her story, and her contribution to Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, has largely remained obscured and in the shadows.
We hope this short blog serves to remedy this obscurity, and to shed some light on this amazing woman, and the incredible things she was able to accomplish in our field more than a century ago.
Clark, A. (2018) Otago. 150 Years of New Zealand’s First University. Dunedin: Otago University Press.
Research into Isabel Turnbull’s career was generously funded by Andrew Calvert (a member of Isabel’s family). We are grateful for his support, knowledge, and encouragement which helped us bring Isabel’s incredible career and achievements to light. Thank you to Moira White at the Otago Museum for access to the Museum’s records of the Classics Teaching Collection and for permission to publish Isabel’s handwritten notes. This project could not have been completed without the help from the librarians at the Hocken Library at the University of Otago. Their expertise and assistance in helping us locate relevant information in the archives and granting permission to publish this material has been truly invaluable.
Interview by Connie Skibinski
"This Bulletin, unlike others in this series, has been made the vehicle for contentious theory of a kind which belongs to early and eclectic research, not to the historian’s considered verdict."
It is interestingly supplemented by the archaeological notes of Susan Davis, notes which contain information about the site both before and after the existence of the barracks. It is a matter for conjecture whether the interests of the Trust would have been better served if Susan Davis's notes, published elsewhere, had formed the basis for this Bulletin rather than the insecure argument of Mr Burnett's 'fustian grenadiers' versus the 'bubble-gum’ of Dr Miller's 'unimaginative British soldier '. We might then have known more about the defended site of the whaling days, and of the shearing shed of a later era, without being involved in hypotheses of doubtful relevance.
From 1956 to 1960, Susanna appears in several newspaper articles for The Evening Post. One such article contains a striking image of herself and the secretary of the Historic Places Trust, Mr John Pascoe, at the aforementioned Paremata Barracks (Figure 4). One can just make out the trowel in Susanna’s hand by her side. There is something to be said here about archaeology in reality vs imagined archaeology and its presentation to the general public. This particular scene was constructed for photographic purposes and Susanna played a crucial role, at a critical time period, in normalising the place of women in the field and subverting public perceptions.
In mid-1963, Susanna left the SWM to take a curatorial position at Guildhall Museum. She then moved to London Museum where she curated exhibitions drawing on the museum’s collections of historic jigsaws and the suffragist movement. During this time, she joined the Suffragettes Fellowship, lending her voice to advocate for women’s rights (Figure 6).
Leaving the London Museum in 1968, Susanna travelled to the USA to work on Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts, where she took part in the famous re-creation of the 17th century settlement founded by the Pilgrim Fathers. Her work involved researching and commissioning accurate copies of appropriate period furniture and soft furnishings, as well as correct costume for the living history interpreters in the houses.
After her second return to the UK, Susanna held curatorial positions at a number of well-known museums, Bewdley Museum in Worcestershire (1974 to 1982), Cider Museum in Heresford (1982 to 1985), and Ayscoughfee Hall at Spalding, Lincolnshire (1985 to 1995), before retiring in 1995 to Wales where she resides today.
Our research shows that after moving back to the UK from NZ, Susanna’s publication output decreases, which is reflective of her shift in focus from archaeological sciences and research to an alternative career pathway focussing in museums. While Susanna’s time as a professional archaeologist in NZ might be considered brief, there is no doubt of the lasting impact her research has had in the development of the archaeological discipline in the Pacific region.
- Anon. 1957 500-year-old greenstone adze. Museum studies rare moa hunter artifact. The Evening Post, 8th August 1957, p. 12.
- Anon. 1960 Archaeologist to further studies overseas. The Evening Post, 29th April 1960, p. 18.
- Anon. 1968 The veteran campaigner and the girl who will be battling on. Daily Mirror, 7th February 1968, p. 3.
- Burnett, R.I.M. 1963 The Paremata Barracks. Wellington: Govt. Print. in conjunction with the National Historic Places Trust.
- Cranstone, B.A.L. 1963 A unique Tahitian figure. The British Museum Quarterly 27(1/2): 45–48. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/4422812)
- Davidson, J.M. 2019 The Cook Voyages Encounters: The Cook Voyages Collections of Te Papa. Wellington: Te Papa Press.
- Davis, S. 1957 Evidence of Maori occupation in the Castlepoint area. The Journal of the Polynesian Society 66(2): 199–203. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/20703605)
- Davis, S. 1959 A summary of field archaeology from the Dominion Museum Group. New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 2: 15–19. (https://nzarchaeology.org/download/a-summary-of-field-archaeology-from-the-dominion-museum-group)
- Davis, S. 1962 Interim report: Makara Beach (Wellington) excavation. New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 5: 145–150. (https://nzarchaeology.org/download/interim-report-makara-beach-welington-excavation)
- Davis, S. 1963 A note on the excavations of the barracks at Paremata. In R.I.M. Burnett (ed.), The Paremata Barracks, pp. 25–29. Wellington: Govt. Print. in conjunction with the National Historic Places Trust.
- Dreaver, A. 1997 An Eye for Country: The Life and Work of Leslie Adkin. Wellington: Victoria University Press.
- Duff, R. 1960 New Zealand. Asian Perspectives 4(1/2): 111–117. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42927491)
- Leach, H.M. 1976 Horticulture in prehistoric New Zealand: an investigation of the function of the stone walls of Palliser Bay. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Otago, Dunedin.
- Leach, B.F. 1976 Prehistoric communities in Palliser Bay, New Zealand. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Otago, Dunedin.
- Leach, B.F. and H.M. Leach (eds) 1979 Prehistoric Man in Palliser Bay. Wellington: National Museum of New Zealand.
- Prickett, N. 2004 The NZAA—A short history. Archaeology in New Zealand 47(4): 4–26. (https://nzarchaeology.org/download/the-nzaa-a-short-history )
- Wards, I.M. 1963 The Paremata Barracks by R.I.M. Burnett. Political Science 15(2): 82–85. (https://doi.org/10.1177/003231876301500222)
Written by David Frankel
Emeritus Professor of Archaeology, La Trobe University
Originally postedAAIA blog, March 2021
From these initial classes through to post-graduate study Judy introduced me and my fellow students to the masochistic joys of research, of continual questioning and of all facets of archaeology, and always with her characteristic energetic engagement with ideas. This included early exposure to the developing challenges of the New Archaeology in the late 1960s: challenges at odds with the very traditional approaches of other archaeologists, especially some in her own department. But theory had to be matched by practice, for Judy saw that it was essential for students to gain experience in the field in order not only to develop skills, but also to understand the nature of the archaeological record and its potential, even if this had to be done against departmental policy.
Of course the multiple demands of excavation are not for everyone, but from my first exposure I found them both exciting and challenging. I was fortunate enough to spend many months of 1967 working with archaeologists of the calibre of Jack Golson (in New Zealand) and Ron Lampert (at Burrill Lake in NSW) and on several sites in Israel.
The value of this experience became evident in the Sydney University expedition to Zagora in Greece, as there was a cohort of students well equipped for the work. This project had been designed to take advantage of the varied interests and abilities of the Archaeology staff. Judy was naturally entrusted to manage the fieldwork, where she set up the general frameworks and strategies which continued after she was no longer involved.
Written by Emily Simons and Madaline Harris-Schober
University of Melbourne
Webb was born on 31 July 1880 near Tumut, New South Wales, with her mother passing shortly after and her father dying in an accident when she was nine years old. She then moved with her aunt, Jean Lauder Watson, to Melbourne where she lived for the rest of her life. Jessie was among the second generation of women to graduate from the University of Melbourne, and she continued working there for the rest of her life. She joined the staff at the University of Melbourne in 1908, becoming a senior lecturer in 1923. She functioned as acting professor three times before her death in 1944.
Throughout her time at the University, Jessie had an enormous impact on developing the Classics and Archaeology Collection at the University. While teaching at the University of Melbourne, Jessie made two research trips abroad, travelling through Africa to Europe and the eastern Mediterranean; she explored sites that she had spent a lifetime teaching, places that inspired her. These visits 1922–1923, and then again in 1936, proved a catalyst for building the teaching collection and provided a significant amount of story-telling material for students and public lectures. After her first trip, she persuaded the University to contribute 20 to 25 pounds a year to purchase 'representative Greek and Roman coins' to become part of a teaching collection. The collection now comprises 745 coins.
My name is Webb, in me you see
How much in little there can be,
My mind enquiring is in tone,
And all its sparkles are my own!
Ridley 1994, 39
After seven months of rail and ferry travel, Jessie went on to Greece. Jessie spent her leave at the prestigious British School of Archaeology in Athens, travelling to Crete from the mainland to further her research. While there, she met Arthur Evans, and later students recall her stories about him as "Screamingly funny!" (Ridley 1994, 165). At the end of this trip, she was nominated as the alternate delegate to the League of Nations assembly in Geneva where she discovered the plight of Armenian genocide survivors, returning to Australia to raise funds to support refugees.
Upon returning to Australia and subsequent 'lady of the hour' public lectures, Jessie highlighted the need for more female archaeologists and often commented on women's different statuses in different countries and universities. Her recommendation to both Australian and international counterparts was the promotion of mentorship; for educated women to watch for talented students within their fields and to give them all possible help. Jessie was a firm proponent of humanism and was noted for her support of disadvantaged students and women abroad.
Jessie was a trailblazer. Her travels, which now read like an adventure novel to archaeologists and historians alike, portray her as a figure of intellectual vigour, and a woman of understated wit.
It is remarkable that upon her death she bequeathed £7128 to the University of Melbourne to endorse the study of ancient history and archaeology. The fund, originally intended to support her retirement, instead encourages students to spend a 'season' devoted to research in Greece. Jessie created this scholarship from her retirement funds to "assist a student to have the chance she herself never did, to study at the European institution she knew and remembered best, the BSA or equivalent" (Ridley 1994, 141). This remarkable opportunity has benefitted many students in their postgraduate study at the University of Melbourne. Such generosity made Jessie a fantastic teacher and endeared many to her during her time at the University.
It is a humbling experience to write about Jessie Webb and her life for AWAWS and even more so to chronicle some of her adventures and highlight her legacy.
References and further resources
Pacific Matildas: Adèle de Dombasle as a pioneer traveler-artist for archaeological illustration
Written by Emilie Dotte-Sarout
The University of Western Australia
“Do you actually not want to understand, Sir, how much interest I find in seeing the savages truly in their own interiors, in the midst of their customs, surrounded by all the objects they use. I can be told all kinds of long stories about their ways of life, I will only imperfectly learn what I really want to know. The simple inspection of a house will tell me much more. Better than descriptions, it will reveal to me the intimate particularities of their existence. You know it, I came to Noukouhiva with the unique aim of seeing” (De Dombasle 1851: 507).
‘Seeing’ was only the first step in fulfilling her aim though. Indeed, Adèle de Dombasle  embarked on this voyage as the “illustrator” accompanying amateur ethnologist Edmond Ginoux de La Coche, who had managed to be entrusted with a mission to Oceania and Chilie for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (de la Grandville 2001). Yet, the mission was cut short after just one week in the Marquesas and three weeks in Tahiti, where Ginoux’s outspoken liberal opinions had made him a few powerful enemies. Clearly, the presence of a woman separated from her husband as the ethnologist’s travel companion provided an additional excuse for condemnation. The local government council issued a specific deportation order against Ginoux that stated he was “a dangerous person and had demonstrated since his arrival in Tahiti a conduct contrary to the good order and tranquility of the colony” (the Governor even visited their hotel to make sure that Ginoux and Ms de Dombasle did not share the same bedroom!) (de la Grandville 2001: 374-377).
Still, Adèle de Dombasle managed to produce several drawings during her travel in Polynesia (and Chile). These represented monuments and sites from the Marquesas, and Tahitian and Marquesan inhabitants with elements of material culture, landscapes and portraits. The details are exceptional (i.e. plant species are identifiable thanks to the precise representations of the leaves and general forms, motifs of tattoos or artefact decorations are finely depicted) and mean that the limited number of her drawings that have been preserved in public collections are a unique source of information for archaeologists working in the region. Unfortunately, only a handful of her illustrations are known and available today: the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris holds 17 of these, while it appears that some of her drawings are still in private family archives (as illustrated in de la Grandville 2001) and others could have been scattered or misattributed after her return voyage to France.
Indeed, according to Ginoux’s biographer, Frédéric de la Grandville, archival sources indicate that the Governor “left Adèle de Dombasle the choice to either stay by herself on the island or accompany Ginoux back”, but they do not record any traces of her decision (2001: 24). Ginoux’s sources describing his long and complicated return trip through the Americas do not mention her, so it appears possible that she took a separate, shorter route (via the Cape Horn and Brazil) back to France. In any case, she was in her home country in 1851, when she published a paper on her experiences in the Marquesas, evoking her delighted discovery of Marquesan landscapes and sites, the context for the tracing of some of her drawings, her attentive encounters with the Marquesan people and their culture as well as her playful and trustful relation with Ginoux. This is a rare document as the only direct source about her experience in Oceania, which clearly shows her curiosity and will to carefully document all her observations, as in this instance when she stops along the track: “I did not want to move away before having augmented my album with a sketch of this picturesque place” (1851: 516).
A further passage records another unclear and potentially important aspect of her anthropological contributions: her role in the making of Ginoux de la Coche’s rich collection of Pacific artefacts, hosted today by the Musée de la Castre in Cannes, southern France. Indeed, de Dombasle narrates how, when she was visiting “the great priestess Hina”, both women entered into a haʼa ikoa (exchange of name involving the formal establishment of kinship relationship). The author recounts how this relationship was sealed through the gift she was offered by the high-ranked woman, bringing
“a necklace, a kind of amulet, made up of a small sperm-whale tooth slipped through a braided bark string, which she came to bind around my neck, asking for my name:
The assimilation of this object offered to Adèle de Dombasle into the ethnographic collection of her male travel companion is striking, especially since a number of pieces of information reveal that she played an essential role in its curation. Notably, she appears to have been the legal heir of the collection after Ginoux’s premature death in 1870, also taking care of his house and library in Nice, eventually making sure that the collection remained intact and properly cared for. A local newspaper article published in 1874 talks about the collection as being “the property of Madam G. de Dombasle” when it was sold to the curator of the Museum of the Baron Lycklama in Cannes, the foundation for the Musée de la Castre (de la Grandville 2001: 387).
Clearly, Adèle de Dombasle’s contributions to the early history of Pacific archaeology deserve a detailed analysis and her life needs to be better documented, an aim that the Pacific Matildas team and colleagues are actively pursuing!
- de Dombasle, Adèle. 1851. Promenade à Noukouhiva. Visite à la Grande Prêtresse. La Politique Nouvelle, vol. 3.
- de la Grandville, Frédéric. 2001. Edmond de Ginoux. Ethnologue en Polynésie Française dans les années 1840. Paris: l’Harmattan.
- Dotte-Sarout E. In press. Pacific Matildas: finding the women in the history of Pacific archaeology, Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, https://www.archaeologybulletin.org/collections/special/histories-of-asia-pacific-archaeologies/
- Niku-Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands archipelago of French Polynesia.
- During my research, I have identified “Adèle de Dombasle” as Gabrielle Adélaide Garreau née Mathieu de Dombasle, born 1819-deceased after 1870.
Betty Fletcher (née Robertson): Lover of Wisdom, Lover of Beauty, Lover of Humanity
Written by James Donaldson
The University of Queensland
Betty was educated at Somerville House in South Brisbane and won form prizes for English, French, Latin and Greek in the Junior Exam (Grade 10) in 1925. In 1927, during her Senior year, Betty was both School and Athletics Captain and won prizes for athletics and leadership. The same year, Betty was one of only 20 recipients of an Open Scholarship to the University of Queensland for 1928.
In 1967 the University of Queensland’s Alumni Association was formed and both Betty and Owen became active members. They were recognised for their contributions to the organisation with the granting of honorary life membership in 1988. Betty’s contributions were focused around her old discipline of Classics and Ancient History. She supported the Alumni Archaeological Scholarship, which provides funds for a student to travel and participate in an overseas excavation such as the University of Sydney’s Pella excavation, and in 1988 she became the inaugural patron of the new Friends of Antiquity group. Prior to this time, Betty had already established herself as a generous donor to the University’s Antiquities Museum. Donations of funds between 1980 and 1989 allowed the Museum to purchase a number of important artefacts:
- In 1980, a gold stater of Alexander the Great dating to 336–323 BC
- In 1984, an Urartian bronze fibula dating to 800–600 BC
- In 1986, a marble Attic Loutrophoros fragment, inscribed for “Phanodemos, the son of Paramonos, of the Deme of Aithalidai” on the occasion of the University of Queensland's 75th Anniversary; and
- In 1989, two Macedonian tetradrachms, one of Philip II, dating to 359–348 B, and the other of Philip V, dating to 221–179 BC, to mark her 80th birthday.
“The Classics were always a very important part of Betty’s life, and she showed her concern for her favourite discipline by her constant and generous giving, both materially and of herself. Our fine Museum of Classical Antiquities owes much to the many benefactions of Betty over many years.”
In 2019, the Friends of Antiquity established a second Betty Fletcher scholarship with a donation of $50,000, matched by the University, to support students studying Classics and Ancient History who are experiencing financial hardship. In 2020, the donation of $120,000 from the Alumni Friends of the University of Queensland secured the future of the Travelling Scholarship in perpetuity. A bronze portrait medallion of Betty by Dr Rhyl Hinwood, AM, mounted on Helidon freestone, is housed in the RD Milns Antiquities Museum and a copy was donated by Owen Fletcher to Somerville House. An inscription accompanying the medallion, composed by Prof. R.D. Milns, provides a fitting tribute:
Lover of Wisdom, Lover of Beauty, Lover of Humanity
- Fletcher, O., 1991. Our Life Together, Brisbane, Queensland: Boolarong Publications.
- Unknown. 1990. Rare Coins from Graduate Student. Brisbane, Queensland: University News.
- Clarke, E. 1985. Female Teachers in Queensland State Schools: A History 1860–1983, Brisbane, Queensland: Department of Education.
- Gregory, H. 2016. Fletcher, Owen Maynard (1908-1992). Canberra, ACT: Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Written by Dr Emilie Dotte-Sarout
University of Western Australia
These themes emerged during the research I have been undertaking for the previous five years as part of the team working on the ‘Collective Biography of Archaeology in the Pacific’ (CBAP ARC Laureate project led by Prof. Matthew Spriggs). As the very first consolidated and multilingual effort to investigate the historiography of archaeology in the region, highlighting the role of ‘hidden’ figures – namely indigenous collaborators and women engaged in the discipline – was part of our agenda. Yet, our experience clearly demonstrated the specific difficulties encountered in trying to ‘hear’ these hidden voices in the silences of the archives of Pacific archaeology. To overcome this, each of these topics needs to be examined on its own terms. For the women who were part of the development of archaeology in the Pacific to be included in the history of the discipline, explicit attention has to be given to the subject using a specific set of approaches and methods informed by gender studies and the feminist history of science, while integrating those used in the history of archaeology until now.
Women in the history of science
In particular, the first volume of Margaret Rossiter’s foundational Women Scientists in America (1982) not only demonstrated that many women had been active in American science since the 19th century despite not being represented in dominant historical narratives, but also that they developed specific strategies to overcome oppositional reactions and the segregated structuration of the scientific establishment. These observations hold true for the rest of the western world, with women scientists finding ways to advance knowledge and practice at least since antiquity (Watts 2007), including in the belatedly appearing disciplines of the social sciences (McDonald 2004; Carroy et al. 2005). Rossiter identified the gendered assumptions that tended to keep women out of science as a masculine field, writing that 19th century “women scientists were (…) caught between two almost exclusive stereotypes: as scientists they were atypical women; as women they were unusual scientists” (1982: xvi). This question has since been much examined by feminist historians of science (Watts 2007; Schiebinger 2014) and is certainly pertinent in regards to the first women who were interested in the emerging field of prehistory/archaeology in the Pacific: not only were they entering the masculine realm of science, but also those of fieldwork and the public sphere in exotic, mostly colonial spaces – not a woman’s place by any 19th century and early 20th century expectations. It must also be remembered that in most of the western world, sociocultural gendered norms were articulated with the legal subjugation of women, severely restricting their freedom and participation in public society until the 1960s in some of the European countries that played a role in the history of Pacific archaeology.
Finding the women in the history of Pacific archaeology
But I will not work alone on this project, and in addition to collaborative works with colleagues in Australia and elsewhere, postgraduate research projects are proposed within this DECRA. PhD candidate, Sylvie Brassard, has just started investigating the role, names, and legacies of the elusive group of women ‘volunteers’ working at the Musée de l’Homme during the emergence of the distinct school of French ‘archéologie océaniste’ in the mid-20th century. I am looking for interested postgraduate students to examine other topics, such as the particular dynamics that characterised the increasing engagement of women in New Zealand and Australian archaeology during the 20th century; the works and unusual careers of early women anthropologists sharing an interest in string figures; those who became specialists in material culture studies; and indigenous ‘folklorist’ experts in oral traditions linked to archaeological history. Finally, Dr India Dilkes-Hall is working with me to develop a database compiling the women’s scientific written outputs that we aim to make accessible online at the end of the project, offering a wide exposure to the Pacific Matildas’ legacies. We also want to use it as a tool to conduct citation rates analysis in the main and most enduring archaeology journals of the region to provide a comparable measure of research impact with their male colleagues and between themselves.
Together, we want to ensure that the ‘Matildas’ of Pacific archaeology are not left out of its history.
 Although Margarete Schurig also completed her museum-based doctoral dissertation Die Südseetöpferei (Pacific Pottery) in 1930 in Leipzig, which remained the foremost text on the subject for at least the next thirty years.
- Allen J. 1986. Evidence and Silence: Feminism and the Limits of History. In Pateman C. & Gross E. (eds) Feminist Challenges: Social and Political Theory. Allen & Unwin: 173–189.
- Carroy J., Edelman N., Ohayon A., Richard N. 2005. Les femmes dans les sciences de l’Homme (XIX-XXe siècles). Inspiratrices, collaboratrices ou créatrices. Seli Arslan.
- Claassen C. 1994. Women in Archaeology. University of Pennsylvania Press.
- Cohen G. & Joukowsky M. 2004. Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. University of Michigan Press. Diaz-Andreu M. & M.L.S. Sorensen. 1998. Excavating Women: A History of Women in European Archaeology. Routledge.
- Dotte-Sarout E., Maric T. and Molle G. Forthcoming. Aurora Natua and the motu Paeao site: Unlocking French Polynesia’s islands for Pacific archaeologists. In Jones T.H. Howes & Spriggs M. (eds) Uncovering Pacific Pasts: Histories of archaeology in Oceania. ANU Press, Acton (submitted August 2020).
- McDonald L. 2004. Women Founders of the Social Sciences. McGill-Queen's University Press.
- Rossiter M. 1982. Women scientists in America: Struggles and strategies to 1940. John Hopkins University Press.
- Rossiter M. 19993. The --Matthew-- Matilda Effect in Science, Social Studies of Science, 23 (2): 325-341. (NB: Matthew is a stikethrough in original reference)
- Schiebinger L. 2014. Women and Gender in Science and Technology. Routledge.
- Trouillot M-R. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Beacon Press.
- Watts R. 2007. Women in Science. A Social and Cultural History. Routledge.
Eve Dray (1914-2005)
Part two of a two-part series on Eleanor Stewart and Eve Stewart and their contributions to Cypriot archaeology in Australia
Written by Dr Craig Barker
The University of Sydney
Eve found that her work with the Cyprus Museum and her skills as an archaeological illustrator became highly valued on the island. One project she worked on was Vounous with the young Jim and Eleanor Stewart. Along with Joan and Sydney-born Margaret ‘Kim’ Collingridge, Eve was a participant in the excavations of tombs at Tsambres and Aphendrika (Dray and du Plat Taylor 1939). The adventures of the team were sensationally reported in the Australian media at the time: “Archaeologist mistaken for a spy” Sydney Morning Herald 15 December 1938.
In 1939 Tom Dray inherited a property and land at Tjikos in the north of Cyprus, assets that would be central to the rest of Eve’s life. The building came into his possession from William Scorseby Routledge, the widower of Katherine Routledge, the first female archaeologist to work in Polynesia. Eve would later assist in the tracking down of some of Routledge’s lost archaeological documents. The house at Tjikos over time became the base for much of Eve and Jim’s fieldwork on the island.
The Stewarts conducted fieldwork campaigns in the 1950s in Cyprus on a series of Early and Middle Cypriot burials which were not on the ambitious scale that Jim had initially planned for his Australian fieldwork projects. By the time of the couple’s final excavations at Karmi in 1961, Jim was very ill, and he passed away in 1962.
Less successful was her aim to turn the property at Tjiklos into a centre for Australian archaeology in Cyprus, especially after the Turkish invasion of 1974. Attempts at establishing a foundation for the study of Cypriot archaeology at the University of New England were also unsuccessful. However, the money Eve raised from the sale of the Tjiklos house in 1986 was invested in the purchase of a building in Nicosia by the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) where today researchers and students of the archaeology of Cyprus can stay in the J.R. Stewart residence. Museums and universities across Australia are now homes to collections of Cypriot material from the Stewarts’ excavations.
Neither Eleanor nor Eve ever held an academic position, nor were their contributions to archaeology particularly celebrated during their lifetime beyond a general admiration for Eve’s determination to promote Jim’s legacy and complete his work. Thankfully, a greater acknowledgement of their respective contributions to Cypriot archaeology has finally begun.
Read The Mrs Stewarts. Part one - Eleanor Neal
- Dray, E. and J. du Plat Taylor, ‘Tsambres and Aphendrika: two Classical and Hellenistic cemeteries in Cyprus’, Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus 1937-39, 24–123
- Knapp, A.B., J.M. Webb and A. McCarthy (eds), J.R.B. Stewart: an archaeological legacy (SIMA CXXXIX: Uppsala 2013)
- Powell, J. Love’s Obsession: The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart (Kent Town 2013)
- Stewart, E., ‘Eve Stewart on James Stewart’, in: A.B. Knapp, J.M. Webb and A. McCarthy (eds), J.R.B. Stewart: an archaeological legacy (SIMA CXXXIX: Uppsala 2013), xiii-xiv
- Webb, J.M., D. Frankel, K.O. Eriksson & J.B. Hennessy, The Bronze Age Cemeteries at Karmi Palealona and Lapatsa in Cyprus. Excavations by J.R.B. Stewart (SIMA 136: Sävedalen 2009).
Eleanor Neal (1911-2002)
Part one of a two-part series on Eleanor Stewart and Eve Stewart and their contributions to Cypriot archaeology in Australia.
Written by Dr Craig Barker
The University of Sydney
Unfortunately, Eleanor and Eve, his two wives and archaeological partners, have not reached the same level of recognition for their pioneering efforts in Cypriot archaeology and in Eve’s case, keeping Jim’s legacy alive. However, the process of finally recognising this contribution has begun in recent years following the publication of a biography of James and Eve based upon Eve’s letters (Powell 2013) and a short summary of Eleanor’s life (Merrillees 2013).
They had first visited Cyprus in 1935 after a trip to Australia. Both fell in love with the island, and in 1937 returned to excavate a series of 85 tombs in the Early Bronze Age cemetery of Bellapis Vounous near Kyrenia. Eleanor not only worked in partnership with Jim during the excavations, but also on the recording and publication of finds and on an exhibition which was held at the Institute of Archaeology in Regent’s Park in 1939. Virginia Grace (The American School of Classical Studies, Athens) had visited the pair in the field and admired their ability to maintain complex catalogues of finds in their cat-filled workrooms in the medieval Abbey at Bellapais at the same time as digging (Powell 2013, 58).
Jim spent most of the war in prisoner-of-war camps in Germany; Eleanor with the Women’s Voluntary Services. At end of the war, the couple reunited in England and welcomed the birth of their only son in 1946. Shortly after, Jim took up a teaching role at the University of Sydney, moving to Sydney without his family. He returned to Cyprus alone in 1947 where he began an affair with Eve Dray and the marriage with Eleanor would soon end after she joined him in Sydney. As James wrote to Professor Einar Gjerstad in June 1947, “It looks as if Eleanor and I are going to break up our marriage—we have failed to adjust ourselves since the war, and it is no use continuing. If it does come to a divorce this year, I shall marry Eve Dray, the girl who has been helping me with the drawings for Vounous and Lapithos.”
The final publication of the Vounous material appeared in 1950, co-authored by both Eleanor and Jim. It was her only writing on the archaeology of Cyprus but the contribution was significant. Jim made it clear the volume was a partnership: ‘the work is divided between us. My wife has been responsible for nearly all of the cataloguing of finds, and I have done the description of the graves’ (Stewart & Stewart, 1950: 10). However, because the work was published as E. and J.R. Stewart and the timing of its publication a decade after its main composition, many have erroneously assumed it was the work of Eve and not Eleanor. As Eve herself would later write (Merrillees 2013): ‘Eleanor might be given more credit; like me, she was the Junior Partner in Jim’s work: she did much of the Vounous cataloguing; many of the notes … are in her handwriting.’
After their divorce, Eleanor would remarry in 1952 but avoided archaeology completely. She married Sydney barrister Kenneth Jacobs who would eventually serve as a Justice in the High Court of Australia. From 1979 Lady Eleanor and Sir Kenneth Jacobs lived in the United Kingdom. Eleanor never revisited Cyprus although it is said that the she continued to have fond memories of the island (Merrillees 2013).
- Merrillees, R.S., ‘Eleanor Stewart remembered’, in: A.B. Knapp, J.M. Webb & A. McCarthy (eds), J.R.B. Stewart: an archaeological legacy (SIMA CXXXIX: Uppsala 2013), ix-xii
- Powell, J., Love’s Obsession: The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart (Kent Town 2013)
- Stewart, E. & J. Stewart, Vounous 1937–38: Field-Report on the Excavations sponsored by the British School of Archaeology at Athens (Lund 1950)
- Stewart, J.R., ‘The Early Cypriote Bronze Age’, in: P. Dikaios & J.R. Stewart, The Swedish Cyprus Expedition Volume IV Part IA. The Stone Age and the Early Bronze Age in Cyprus, (Lund 1962), 205-401
Unfortunately photographs of Eleanor are elusive both from her early life and long marriage to Sir Kenneth Jacobs KBE QC. No known images of Eleanor are currently in the public domain.
Adele De Dombasle
Eleanor Stewart / Jacobs (nee Neal)
Eugenie Sellers Strong
Eve Stewart (nee Dray)
Marjorie Burnell (nee Smyth)
Olwen Tudor Jones
Theme: Research Methods
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The contribution made by women to ancient world studies in Australia and New Zealand has often been neglected. Our blog aims to bring you new research and insights into some of these remarkable women.
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