‘They deserve a place in history’: family historian makes map of Australia's early female pioneers

Interactive tool will feature more than 500 early pioneer women who are often overlooked or forgotten in the Australian history world.

Temporary Page. Image illustrative of concept.

We are developing a new tool seeking to cast a spotlight on female pioneers throughout the early European settlement of Australia, pushing back against the sexism, stigmatisation and societal norms that have long rendered them invisible.

“We’ve never given them the place they deserve in history,” said Frances Fairhall, the creative designer of an interactive map that features more than 500 female pioneers from across the country.

“They don’t appear in traditional history books, their stories aren’t spoken in traditional media productions or broadcasts, and their contribution to Australian history isn’t recorded.”

The 54-year-old music historian from Brunswick East came up with the idea after realising that during her years of studies of her own family history of pioneering women, she had rarely heard of women who had composed the early workforce, such as publicans.

“I had always talked about putting these pioneering women on the map – so it occurred to me to do it literally.”

Then came the hard part. “There’s a moment where you ask yourself, where do I look for this information ?” She delved into encyclopedias, dug through libraries and contacted people on social media.

The interactive map will feature more than 500 female pioneers from across the country.

“When I started I thought I wouldn’t find more than five female publicans, for example” she said. After more than a year and hundreds of hours of work, the site will document over 500 lesser known or celebrated women – including a short description of each one and a link to read or listen to their story – often read by a living ancestor, and Frances is working her way through a list of another 500 names to add.

The result is a catalogue of pioneering women that range from dairy maids to dignitaries.

Many of the women listed on the map languished in obscurity, their stories marred by the long-held notion that the workforce at that time (1840 -1930) could be a minor pastime for women but not a profession. Some, saw their careers come to an abrupt halt amid concerns that performing any number of traditional men's roles could put her reputation at risk. Others were stigmatised by the belief, stubbornly clung to for centuries, that women were incapable of the kind of higher level thinking needed to survive alone, let alone thrive.

“It was taken for granted that work performed by a woman wouldn’t be of the same quality as that performed by a man,” said Frances.

The barriers forced female pioneers to get creative.

"If you want to find out about male pioneers, you can open any book on Australian history, go to any concert or tune into any radio or television station,” she said. “But if I’m putting together a map of early female pioneers, it is because these women don’t appear anywhere else.”

What’s excited her most is the interest she has received from other historians who are eager to incorporate the map into their historical studies.

“Nobody ever spoke to me about early female pioneers, when I went to high school” she said. “So I want to do what hasn’t been done for me, I want Australians to know their stories, that they existed.”


Membership Payments to Australian Pioneer Women's Map

Support our quest to put our forgotten or undiscovered early Australian Pioneers on the map ! This is substantially a VOICE, VOCAL, SOUND recording project.

We are located at 21 Smith Street FITZROY, Melbourne, Vic, 3065

Ph: 0431 825 862

Proposed Annual membership to Australian Pioneer Women's Map is $15

National Australia Bank (NAB)

BSB: 083-376

ACCT: 2460 70375

(Use surname as ID 😊)


'Women in Blues' is a longstanding recording project feauturing music recorded by Australian lead-female vocals in the genre of Blues. We are also developing an interactive map for this project to complement the longstanding radio show ❤.


See: www.facebook.com/WomenInBlues