Sunday, October 23, 2016

Putting women on the map

As I am about to move to a town named after a pioneering woman of Australia - whose history I’m currently researching and on which I will write more anon - I was curious to find out about other such instances and was surprised when it proved no easy task.

While there are many cities and towns around the world named after famous women - goddesses, saints, Queens and numerous wives, mothers or daughters of governors or important founding fathers or officials - Alice Springs in Australia or Ladysmith in South Africa being a couple of the better-known examples - those named after ordinary women who were enterprising in their own right and not some adjunct to male endeavour are almost impossible to find. 

There is no comprehensive research available into the topic of places named after women. This website lists a few places in South Australia - mostly relatives of governors or other important men - and quite a few of them would be spots that most of those women would never have visited - or even wanted to visit! - in person.

Lake Griselda and Griselda Hill are apparently named after Griselda Sprigg, the first woman to cross the Simpson Desert in both directions.

Lake Griselda, Simpson Desert. Copyright Panoramio

In Western Australia, the barren Mount Daisy Bates is named after the controversial anthropologist and journalist.* There is also a Bates Siding in the middle of the desolate Nullabor Plain. 

Daisy Bates chats to HRH Duke of Gloucester at Ooldea Siding, 1934

There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that so many of these landmarks named after women are about as inhospitable and remote as you can get from civilization on the planet - not unlike the distant Rose Island atoll, the subject of my earlier post on Rose de Freycinet. Unless my ongoing research finds other instances, it may well be I am moving to a town that is unique - in Australia at least.

* Other features in this area include Amy Giles Hill and Mount Fanny - the origins of these names are unknown.