Coolgardie as Matrimonial Field (1896!)

In 1896, this article taken from the local rag “Pioneer” encouraged “spinsters” to come to Coolgardie and seek husbands, whilst also warning that they may end up playing second fiddle to their husbands’ love of gold, gambling and drinking with their mates at the pub!

The West Australian, 19 February 1896.

You can view the article in it’s original form here on Trove.

COOLGARDIE AS A MATRIMONIAL FIELD – Coolgardie, according to the local Pioneer is as promising a matrimonial field as a goldfield. “Most of us” (writes the Pioneer) “are tired of single wretchedness, and we are feeling a distaste for dwellings where the feminine element is ever absent. In all trepidation we might point out to the girls in the East that Coolgardie is a fine field for matrimony. Here we have thousands of marriageable men, good-looking, high-spirited men, too – the making of honest husbands who could be lassoed into captivity with ease, and who, we are sure, would never regret the pleasant bondage.

We advise the fair spinsters of the East to come over, ensuring them of a hearty welcome in this land of gold and love. Husbands and gold rings are to be picked up here easily, when feminine grace and pretty fripperies stoop to conquer. They may have to put up with many little inconveniences, such as we have pointed out, but it would be their privilege to alter the prevailing state of affairs and win men from their attachment to the bar to that of a staunch allegiance to the cradle. And any woman worth her salt would find that not only an easy task but a congenial task.”

There is, however, another side to the picture for the same paper in the same article says: “Women who follow their husbands to the goldfields must be content to play second fiddle. The man looks upon speculation as his mistress, the bar, the open call, and the club as his companions. They become more essential, and, we regret to say, often more attractive to him than the canvas home and the wife’s conversation.

A goldfield ruins a man for domestic life, for what man can enjoy cold mutton, or even hot roast beef, with his wife, after boarding at a first-class hotel where he meets brainy men who give him an appetite? On a goldfield men of keen intelligence congregate, and they imbibe a love for gambling and speculation. Many of them will never settle down again, but wander from field to field making and losing fortunes. Travel they may enjoy, or life in the metropolis, but never again the domestic hearth and the constant ripple of a woman’s tongue”.

General view Londonderry Mine, Coolgardie, 1895?

General view Londonderry Mine, Coolgardie, 1895?

Over one hundred years later, Bernard Salt similarly suggested that single women make their way to a mining town in his 2008 book, “Man Drought”. According to Salt, the town with the best ratio of single men to single women on the Australian continent at the time of the 2006 census was the resources town of Glenden 165 km west of Mackay in Queensland.

Did you, or someone you know find love while working in a mining town? We would love to hear your story in the comments section below!

4 thoughts on “Coolgardie as Matrimonial Field (1896!)

  1. In searching family history of my husbands grandfather, I discovered this article. His Grandfather and Grandmother were married in Coolgardie on 17 November 1896. They were Rowland Hill Macdonald and Marguerite Jones. Rowland Hill owned the Exchange Club Hotel, listed in th Londonderry Postal Directory of 1899. Marguerite’s father was George Jones a miner who was also shown as a Pioneer of 1896.They lived in Piesse Street, Coolgardie.

  2. Dear Geraldine,

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. How fascinating! It’s wonderful you’ve been able to discover this information about your family history.

  3. My grt grandparents married there in 1897, Alexander Purcell and Helena olga Burdak, then moved to Fremantle, and where the publicans of The Odd fellows Hotel, now the Norfolk. He originally was in Melbourne and her Adelaide,So makes me think she read the article LOL

  4. My great grandmother Mary Davey arrived in Coolgardie with her sister Emily Mathews (nee Bartholomew) in 1894. Emily had owned a hotel with her husband John Mathews in Wilcannia. On his death she headed back to her family home in South Australia and picked up her 22 year old little sister (Emily was 38 years old at the time). They travelled to Coolgardie where they opened the Miners Arms Hotel on the corner of Bayley and Ford St. It burned during the great fire but around that time Emily managed to snag one of the towns more eligible bachelors. He was Frederick Brewer, 13 years Emily’s junior. Fred was not only an accomplished builder but also owned a condensing plant (his brother Charles had the Bonnievale Hotel). They rebuilt the Miners Arms as the Metropolitan Hotel and made a great deal of money. After travel overseas they settled at Mounts Bay Rd Crawley until Freds premature death in 1912. The house there was a limestone bungalow with a large garden and included the boatshed that is still there today. Unfortunately family photographs of the house and boatshed were destroyed in the 1990s. My great grandmother Mary went to Kalgoorlie and operated the Railway Hotel in Burt St Boulder with her husband Charles Davey. After his death she moved to Perth to be near her sister.

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