Caroline's Dilemma
362 pages, 6 x 9
16 b&w photographs and 4 maps
Release Date:01 Sep 2020
Release Date:01 Sep 2020
Release Date:01 Sep 2020
Release Date:01 Sep 2020

Caroline's Dilemma

A Colonial Inheritance Saga

UBC Press

Caroline Kearney faced a heartbreaking dilemma.

Caroline was a thirty-one-year-old mother of six when her husband died in Melbourne, Australia in 1865. Having no legal rights herself to the sheep station in Wimmera, 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, Caroline 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 husband and his family – unlike her – were Catholic.

This extraordinary book combines storytelling with a 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. Penny Russell, professor of history, University of Sydney

Bettina Bradbury spent her academic career in Canada teaching at Université de Montréal and York University. A long-time member of the Montreal History Group and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, she is the award-winning author of Wife to Widow: Lives, Laws, and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal and Working Families: Age, Gender, and Daily Survival in Industrializing Montreal. She has retired to Wellington, New Zealand, where she grew up.

The Bax and Kearney family trees

Map – location of Bax family and relatives, 1837–70


Part 1: Migration, marriage and station life: Becoming Australian colonisers

1 Migrations and marriage

2 Broom Station, Mosquito Plains, South Australia, 1853–57

3 Lockhart Station, Western Wimmera, Victoria, 1858–65

Part 2: Widowhood: Contesting Edward’s will and his brothers’ influence

4 Edward’s death, his final wishes and religious warfare

5 Learning legal procedures

6 Leaving Lockhart Station

7 Arrivals and new challenges

Part 3: Later lives: Deaths and legacies

8 Endings

9 The boys’ adult lives






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