Anne Crawford has woven together the extraordinary true stories of eight inspiring women from remote parts of Australia - whether that be the bush, the mountains or the outback. The women featured range from hard-bitten bush women to those who've left the city for a new challenge. Together they share their stories of lives forged in often inhospitable conditions, the hardships imposed by isolation and the personal trials they endure to live there.
Women of Spirit is a wonderful snapshot of strong women living quiet but important lives in Australia today.
Anne Crawford is an experienced journalist as well as a horse-owner and horse-lover. She has been a feature writer for The Age, The Sunday Age and The Good Weekend for more than 10 years and is co-author of Doctor Hugh: My Life with Animals and Forged with Flames: A True Story of Courage and Survival. Her most recent book, Great Australian Horse Stories was released in 2013. Anne has ridden everywhere from the Victorian High Country to Patagonia to the deserts of Morocco. She now lives in country Victoria where she rides a small mare with a lot of attitude called Poppy.
Women Of Spirit
Allen and Unwin
Author: Anne Crawford
Question: What inspired you to write about strong women living quiet but important lives?
Anne Crawford: I was up in high-country Victoria in late 2012 talking to a woman I'd met there and Tess said, in passing, that there were women in remote Australia living like the pioneering women of the past. We got talking.
She told me how she'd lived in a tin shed in the mountains with no electricity, a campfire as a stove and for heating water for a bath (a tin drum outside), wildlife and so on for some years while building a home with the man she loved.
As I started researching and asking around I became aware of other women in rural Australia who had lived remarkable lives and made significant contributions to their community and beyond, but their stories were mostly untold. It's always good to bring to these stories to light, not only because they make fascinating reading but because they'll hopefully inspire other women too.
Question: How did you go about collecting true-life stories from the eight women?
Anne Crawford: After asking (and sometimes having to convince them) the women to be a part of the book, I went around Australia talking to them. It was fabulous!
I went to northern Tasmania beneath the Western Tiers; the Victorian mountains (Tess is in the book); the gritty bush of outback New South Wales; the rainforest in the Cairns hinterland and on a 7000-kilometre road trip that took in the Red Centre, Oodnadatta track in SA, the spectacular Flinders Ranges and Adelaide. I also did a lot of research, historical documents.
Question: Was it difficult hearing and writing about women who'd struggled?
Anne Crawford: There were a few times when what I heard was sad, especially if it involved children. But there were lots of funny anecdotes; many amusing things that could only happen in the country!
Question: What did you learn about yourself when writing Women Of Spirit?
Anne Crawford: Writing the book made me think about family more, as that was a strong theme. Women of Spirit reinforced how much I love about the Australian countryside, especially the outback, and country people. I moved to South Gippsland from Melbourne eight years ago, but there are so many other wonderful places to visit. It also reminded me of how much I love story telling.
Question: What do you hope readers take from Women Of Spirit?
Anne Crawford: I just hope they enjoy reading it!
And that it might prompt them to get involved in their community, because all the women in the book gave back to theirs. I also hope it shows how you can pull through the tough times in life and come out smiling.
Interview by Brooke Hunter