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Elsie Magdalene HARRIS

Also known as: née Bohning, Magdaline, The Little Bush Maid

Special Achievements:

Esther Bohning and her daughters, Elsie and Edith, from Helen Springs Station north of Tennent Creek, were known as "The Petticoat Drovers."  Esther and Elsie made history when they took the very first cattle on the train from Alice Springs to Adelaide in 1929.  An agitated railway inspector asked Mr Bohning how the two women would manage, to which he replied ... "... if those two ladies can't handle the situation then it will be no use getting your men to try."

Additional Information:

The Bohning girls, Elsie and Edie, were famous for their station work; Elsie and her mother, who became known as "The Petticoat Drovers," took the first mob of cattle between Alice Springs and Adelaide on the train when the railway opened in 1929.


  • References

    Isaacs, Jennifer. (1990).  Pioneer Women of the Bush and Outback.  Sydney:  Lansdowne Publishing, p. 179.

    “In Australia’s outback pioneering history some women have achieved fame --- although often it is their nickname which survives rather than memories of their great deeds.  Elsie Bohning, who wrote under the pseudonym “The Little Bush Maid”, was known as a “petticoat drover” along with her sister and her mother, Esther Bohning.

         Esther and John Bohning worked Helen Springs Station, 160 kilometres north of Tennant Creek.  All the family including Esther, and her two daughters and sons, were fully active partners in the property.  They rode, mustered and branded stock and went on cattle drives.  At times they had to manage the station on their own.  Elsie went on her first drove at the age of 11 and eulogised it in the following lines: