My bride is a remarkable woman, and she is busy preparing a speech she is about to give about being Bold for Change. Part of her presentation is a story about another remarkable woman in her family tree, Esther Abrahams. Though hardly a household name, First Fleeter, Esther was probably the most influential woman in the country.
In the 1828 census she was recorded as owning 2460 acres in Sydney which included 300 acres of Annandale, 750 acres around Georges River, 500 acres of Bankstown and 600 acres in Cabramatta. That’s quite a property portfolio Im sure you would agree.
Official documents of the First Fleet vary in opinion on her birthdate, she was either 15 or 20 when she fronted the Old Bailey on the charge of attempting to steal two cards of black lace, but all the records agree that she was pregnant. The records also tell of her transport to Australia on board HMS Penrhyn where she and her baby daughter caught the eye of the commanding officer Lt George Johnston. While in Cape Town requisitioning the ships for their final fight across the Great Southern Ocean, George purchased a goat for Esther (whom he referred to as Hetty, that’s the woman not the goat) so that she and her baby could have fresh milk on the journey.
The pair eventually married in 1814 but not before having 6 children. It appears that even back then there were couples in no rush to get married just because they were having children together. The official portrait of Esther is anything but flattering, but accounts describe her as a rare beauty. She managed the business of the family estate in George’s 4 year absence while he went back to England to explain his role in the Rum Rebellion. The business management was no small feat as Annandale alone had a slaughterhouse, a butcher, a bakery a smithy, stores, a vineyard and an orange orchard. The other properties, while perhaps not quite as well-developed were nonetheless big businesses in their own right.
International women’s day was just the other day, Esther was a fine example of a woman capable of anything.