HerStory

For various reasons, it has not been possible to include a photo with this Archive entry. If you’d like to come forward with photos, please see the Contribute page at the bottom left

Topsy SMITH

Born: 1875

Died: 1960

Special Achievements:

Topsy, born about 1875, was the daughter of Mary Kemp, of Arabana Aboriginal descent, and Arthur Evans, an Oodnadatta policeman.  In the early 1890s she married William (Bill) Smith, a Welsh miner.  They lived and worked at Arltunga.
After Bill's death, Topsy and her large family arrived in the township of Stuart in 1914, with a horse and dray to carry their belongings and some chickens.  She and her children herded between four and five hundred goats from Arltunga to Stuart.
Sergeant Stott, officer in charge of police, provided Topsy and her family with accommodation.  The Administrator of Aborigines in Darwin agreed that land behind the Stuart Arms Hotel and near the police station 'be reserved for half-castes.'  A shed was built which became known as The Bungalow.  Topsy and her family lived there and soon children from other families arrived to be cared for.  By November 1914 Topsy, supervised by Sergeant Stott, was in effect in charge of The Bungalow.
When Mrs Ida Stanley was employed as schoolmistress to the children of Stuart and matron of The Bungalow.  Topsy became her assistant.  Two of Topsy's children, Ada and Jean, were among the first students.
Topsy and Ida Stanley were dedicated to the care of the children in their charge and did the best they could in difficult conditions.
The Bungalow sheds were made of unlined tin with compacted termite nest floors.  Topsy had the help of the older children to cook and clean and make clothes from basic materials such as mattress ticking and red turkey twill.  Calico flourbags were used for babies' nappies.  Topsy was responsible for the children's welfare at night and protected the older girls from unwelcome attentions of white men.  She cared for all the children as her own, and received little recognition for her hard work and dedication.
In 1928 The Bungalow was relocated to Jay Creek, 27 km west of town along a dirt track.  Topsy accompanied Ida Standley and the children.  The goats went too.  The buildings were unfinished --- rough, draughty and crowded.
Topsy spent the last years of her life in Alice Springs with her extended family and died on 15 April 1960.


Resources