Who was a deserted wife in colonial Australia? How did she make ends meet during peak periods of wife desertion, such as the Victorian gold rushes? How did colonial Australians view the social problem of wife desertion?
Deserted and Destitute draws on the stories of individual women in gold-rush Victoria to provide new insights into histories of gender, welfare and the state. It follows poor white women as they seek assistance from family and friends or ask for aid from middle-class charity workers. Deserted wives also sought help and advice from magistrates and police, figures who maintained both a benevolent and disciplinary role in the community.
There are no stereotypical victims or social controllers in Deserted and Destitute. Rather, the book explores women’s efforts to provide for their children and reformers’ attempts to deal with the problem of wife desertion as complex factors in the development of social policy.
Dr Christina Twomey was born in Queensland, educated in Victoria and now lives in South Australia. She has published widely in the areas of gender and welfare history and is a Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Adelaide.