24th February 2019

Hampshire Federation of WI

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Talk by Mr Jo Smith: Letters from Australia – A parcel of gold for Edith by Joyce Stevens.

This very interesting talk was based on a discovery in a family bureau, of a collection of seven letters written by Ellen Suter, who at the age of 19 left the poverty of the Portsmouth docklands and set off for a new life in Australia.

What a brave thing to do alone and in 1841! We can only imagine the deprivation she endured to make her feel she needed to leave everything she knew and strike out on her own in the hope of a better life.

Ellen wrote 12 letters to at least 3 members of her family before she received any reply. What a relief it must have been to finally hear from her brother.

The letters, written between 1853-1875 to her brother William, who lived in Headley, Hampshire, having moved from Portsmouth, give an intimate and moving account of the tough life endured by the emigrants.

Living in the gold fields of Bendigo for most of her life, marrying and giving birth to 14 children, of whom only 5 survived must have been horrendous and one can only marvel at the strength of this woman.

Her great great niece, Joyce Stevens, spent many years researching and has produced the book that is the title of this piece. ISBN 1-873855-36-2 priced £4.95.

Joyce continued to live at the family home in Headley until her death in 2007.

Mr Smith was warmly thanked for his fascinating talk and we enjoyed scones, fruit cake and tea afterwards.

Our next meeting will be on 7th March at 2.30pm and our talk is ‘Hants search and rescue’. The meeting takes place every month at Herriard RBL Village hall and you are all very welcome!

Diane Knight

[Please note that this message is not posted on behalf of Bentworth Parish Council and does not necessarily reflect the Parish Council’s policy]

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