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Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden

Memorial Gardens (Park 12)

photo-icon Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden of Remembrance, State Library of South Australia, B 10683, 19 April 1941
photo-icon Pioneer Women's Memorial by Ola Cohn

The origin of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden lay in South Australia’s centenary celebrations, held in 1936, when the women of South Australia raised £6250 to create a befitting memorial to the pioneering women of the State.

It was the responsibility of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Trust to determine how to spend the staggering sum raised and the Trustees ultimately decided to donate £5000 to build the Royal Flying Doctor Base at Alice Springs. The remainder of the money was used to create this garden to remember the pioneering spirit of South Australia’s women.

In 1938 the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Trust commissioned Adelaide-based garden designer Elsie Cornish (1870-1946) to design and build the garden. Melbourne sculptor Ola Cohn (1892-1964) was also engaged to carve the sculpture of the timeless woman from a 3 ton pillar of Waikerie limestone. Set into the base of the sculpture is a sundial designed by George Dodwell (1879-1963), the South Australian Government Astronomer, to accurately reflect Central Standard Time.

Elsie purposefully kept the design of the garden simple as it was intended to be a memorial. However, she imbued the garden with special meaning by drawing on her knowledge of the folkloric meanings of plants, to chose many of them to symbolically represent the attributes of South Australia’s pioneering women.

Elsie also represented the five original trustees of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Trust in the garden by planting a Lombardy poplar for each of them. The row of poplars, replanted in 2002, stands tall behind the sculpture of the timeless woman and represents Adelaide Miethke OBE, Phebe Watson, Gisela Sibert OBE, Dorothy Dolling OBE and Margaret McQuire OAM.

The Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden was officially opened on 19 April 1941 simultaneously, via radio link, with the opening ceremony of the Royal Flying Doctor Service base at Alice Springs. Lady Barclay Harvey, wife of the Governor of South Australia, unveiled the statue.

City of Adelaide acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today. We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal Language Groups and other First Nations.

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