Caroline’s Dilemma Book Launch

Where: Vic Books Pipitea, Ground Floor Rutherford House, 27 Lambton Quay

Date: Wednesday 6th of November 

Time: 5.30pm - 7pm

Please RSVP: bettina@yorku.ca. Additional guests are welcome.

About the book:

Caroline Kearney faced a heart-breaking dilemma. 

She was a 31-year old mother of six when her husband died in Melbourne in 1865. Having no legal rights herself to the sheep station in Wilmmera, Victoria, that her late husband owned, she had great hopes that her sons would inherit it. But that was not to be.

Her husband's will, written on his deathbed, offered a reasonable annuity to support her and the children, but it came with a catch. To get that money, she had to move to Ireland with her children and live in a house of her brothers-in-law's choosing. English-born, Caroline had migrated to Australia with her family when she was only seventeen. She had never even been to Ireland. Her hsuband and his family - unlike her - were Catholic.

This extraordinary book combines storytelling with an historian's detective work. Pieced together from evidence in archives, newspapers, genealogical sites, legal records and old-fashioned legwork, Caroline's Dilemma sheds new light on the workings of colonial gender relationships and family lives that spanned the nineteenth-century globe. It reveals much about women's property rights, migration, settler colonialism, the Irish diaspora and sectarian conflict. It shows how one middle-class woman and her family fought to shape their own lives within the British Empire. 

`A truly impressive work of historical recovery, on a major scale'. - Professor Penny Russell, University of Sydney

About the author:

Bettina Bradbury is a New Zealand born historian who spent most of her career at York University, Canada writing women’s and family history. Her most recent book, Wife to Widow: Lives, Laws and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal, has won multiple awards.  She has now retired to Wellington but spends considerable time in Australia where one of her two daughters lives. Great-great grandparents on both sides of her family migrated to the Pacific in the 19th century, spending some time in the same colonies as Caroline Kearney. On her father’s side Priors and Fordhams left England and became Methodist missionaries and ministers in Fiji, South Australia and then New Zealand.  On her mother’s side, three German Jewish Hallenstein brothers provisioned miners during the gold rush in Victoria before sending Bendix and his wife, Mary Mountain, to set up business during the Otago gold rush in New Zealand.