Imagine having your face on every Australian fifty-dollar banknote. It doesn’t mean that you own all that money, but it does mean that you have done something important. There’s even a saying: a person of note or a notable person.
Have a close look at the fifty-dollar note. Most people don’t notice anything except the fact that it will buy fifty dollars’ worth of something. But the design includes a picture of Western Australia’s original Parliament House, and an illustration of a mother and children. And a picture of a woman standing up and speaking in public. These are notable clues.
Edith Cowan was born on a pastoral property in Western Australia before moving to Perth to boarding school. Her mother died when she was seven and when she was a teenager her father was convicted of murder and hanged. But rather than let tragedy define her, Edith developed a quiet determination to live well and to help others, particularly women and children to live well too. She married and raised her own family, but realised that many other women and children were suffering because of poverty, mischance and lack of education. She was active in fighting for the vote for women and became Australia’s first female parliamentarian. Text is interspersed with colour illustrations and there is a timeline in the final pages.
Edith Cowan: A Quiet Woman of Note explores the life of one of Australia’s quiet achievers. Although her achievements are recorded in books and biographies, there are few books that are designed to introduce this pioneering woman to young readers. The ‘Aussie Heroes’ series aims to rectify that by presenting the stories of notable Australians in a format that is accessible to young readers. Readers can discover not just why Edith is remembered, but about the childhood and early life that helped to shape her. Information is presented in a conversational style, with history of the time providing context to her decisions and endeavours. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
Edith Cowan: A Quiet Woman of Note;, Hazel Edwards ill Angela Grzegrzolka New Frontier Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781925059021
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller