Admirable women in Trove: shared by the Trove community (part two)

More stories of little-known women making big impacts.

In early April, we showcased some of the women’s history stories our Trove community had learnt about in Trove. This blog, which included a military surgeon, animal welfare activist and a pair of cinematographers, only scratched the surface of the stories we received. Read on, as we continue to shine the spotlight on some of the incredible women to be found in Trove. 


Let’s start with adventurers, brave women who weren’t afraid to take risks and certainly made an impression. First is Catherine ‘Katie’ Webb who explored the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains, NSW. On 7th February 1881, while exploring what was then known as the left Imperial Cave with her father, other family members and various others, Katie ‘volunteered to be lowered into an unexplored spot, and discovered [a] bower of beauty’, now referred to as ‘Katie’s Bower’.

Inside a cave with sharp crystals hanging from above
Henry King, ‘Katie's Bower. Jenolan Caves. N.S.W’, ca. 1900,  

One community member who frequently undergoes a ‘deep dive’ in Trove for their podcast told us about the Van Tassel sisters. Around Australia, the pair became  well known in the 1890s for performing on trapezes, hanging from hot air balloons, and parachuting to the ground.

Inflated hot air balloon on the ground surrounded by people
Hot air balloon, Charters Towers [First balloon ascent Charters Towers... by Miss Van Tassell], c.1890,  


Another pair of sisters worthy of admiration are the Crabb sisters, Sarah and Bessie, who managed and taught at an art school for women. The sisters, both talented artists themselves, also built significant art collections throughout their lives. Upon her death, Sarah’s collection of ceramics, prints and sketches by notable artists were donated to the Art Gallery of South Australia. With several pieces more than a century old, the donation was thought to ‘enrich...the already great collection’.  

On the topic of teachers, also worthy of recognition is Mary Ann O’Sullivan nee Walsh, the great grandmother of Brenda, a member of the Trove community. Brenda shared with us how she used Trove to discover that Mary was: 

‘one of the only married (and pregnant) female teachers employed by the Education Department from 1886. There was severe criticism about her in letters from the Education Dept, stating that she should have been at home attending to her husband and children, and not still teaching. I’m not sure how she was able to continue with her employment while married with children from 1890, but [I] guess that she was very determined.’

Relatives of the Trove Community

This is not the only example of a member of the Trove community finding or researching their female ancestors and relatives in the collection. One Trove community member researched the career of their mother’s cousin, Penny Penglaze, a competitive car racer and member of the Red Cross Medical Relief Unit. She held multiple women’s speed records and was considered ‘one of the most accomplished [speed-car drivers] in Sydney’.

Newspaper article entitled 'She Went Into Macedonia And Helped Them'
She Went Into Macedonia And Helped Them, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), August 14 1947,    

Another trailblazer in her industry was Margery King, the great aunt-in-law of a Trove community member. In 1932, when she officially appeared in Court for the first time, King was ‘the only woman in [Victoria] to practise exclusively as a barrister’. She was also the third woman in Victoria to sign the Bar Roll and become a member of the Victorian Bar association.  

Just like our Trove Community, we love uncovering stories about women’s history. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to share with us the Trove stories you discover. You can also subscribe to our monthly Trove Treasures newsletter