In the run-up to a special 70th Anniversary on the 2nd February this year, I have been telling the story of Florence Rutter’s involvement with the child artists of Carrolup in a series of blogs. In the first blog, I describe how Florence first visited Carrolup in July 1949. In the second, I relate events that occurred during the beginning of her tour of Australia and New Zealand, focusing on the exhibition she held in Miss Fisher’s bookshop in Launceston, Tasmania. In both blogs, I used excerpts from my forthcoming book, Aboriginal Child Artists of Carrolup, written in association with John Stanton.
Mrs Rutter had come to the southern hemisphere to setup and invigorate Soroptomist clubs in Australia and New Zealand. She was Founder President of the Central London Soroptimist Club.
In October 1949, Mrs Rutter flew to Melbourne where she displayed her Carrolup art collection for a week in Margareta Webber’s bookshop. She then flew to Sydney where she displayed her collection in Pitt Street, and wrote two cards explaining the pictures and revealing the story of Carrolup. She also showed the photographs that Mr White had taken of her and the children. These photographs had reached her while she was in Tasmania.
On the 29th of October, Mrs Rutter set sail for New Zealand on the ‘Monowai’ to develop and invigorate Soroptimist clubs there. She docked in Wellington two days later and was quickly provided with an opportunity to display the Carrolup drawings at the D.I.C. Store in the city.
After enrolling new Soroptimist members in Wellington, Mrs Rutter headed to Christchurch to form a new club there. By the end of the month and the inaugural Soroptimist dinner, over 50 members had been signed up. Florence showed her art collection in Christchurch.
She then flew to Auckland and arranged an Art Exhibition at Hill & Plummer’s Shop on Queen Street. On the 22nd of December, she participated in a radio broadcast about the Carrolup children and their art. This, after another successful Soroptimist dinner with over 50 new members.
After a New Zealand Christmas, Florence picked up the children’s pictures from Hill & Plummer. She was allowed to purchase art materials for her Aboriginal ‘family’ at wholesale prices.
She hoped Mr Ross McDonald [Minister for Native Affairs in Western Australia – my addition] would be pleased with the publicity she had gained for Carrolup by exhibiting the children’s work in eight Cities of Australia and New Zealand which had aroused great interest. She was quite thrilled to think she would be going back to the Settlement to see and talk with her protégés, and to make plans for their future. The important thing in her view was now to link up the demand for paintings with the supply.’ Margaret Edenburg, Her Beloved Carrolup, 1987, p. 41
Mrs Rutter left New Zealand on the 30th of December, returning to Sydney. She moved on to Melbourne five days later where she stayed four nights and took in a flying visit to Launceston. Then on to Adelaide, arriving on the 13th of January 1950.
What energy for a lady of 71 years of age! And someone who had been told by a doctor a few years earlier, whilst visiting her daughter Margaret Edenburg in Holland, that she had a very serious heart condition and needed complete rest for two hours every afternoon!
In Part 4, I relate what initially happened to Mrs Rutter when she returned to Perth.