by Kim Kelly
A FACE TO LAUNCH A THOUSAND DREAMS
Whenever I’m asked how I best like to waste time, I have no trouble immediately replying, ‘I Trove.’
‘You trove? What’s that and how is it a verb?’ you might ask.
‘Why, it is both verb and noun,’ I most certainly grin: ‘Trove. It’s the National Library of Australia’s online database of just about everything – newspapers, photos, magazine articles – and they go all the way back to 1803. I can lose days in there. Trove, Trove, oh how I love Trove!’ I skip from toe to toe and pirouette.
It is. Some people like to knit, or go mountain climbing, or play the piano accordion to relax. I like to go Troving. Sometimes I have a specific question to ask of Trove’s vast treasure-base, a particular rabbit hole I want to fall into, like: ‘What were the most popular perfumes in 1900?’ or ‘Which Sydney department store had the best sales discounts on during Christmas that year?’ and I’ll spend the rest of my lazy Sunday afternoon dreaming that I’m in the old Grace Brothers building on Broadway buying silk flowers in their bargain basement.
But sometimes, a picture sends me to places I’d never imagined, into whole new worlds of characters I haven’t yet met. Like the woman above. Who is she? According to the photo record she is simply ‘Unidentified’. She is utterly lovely, to me, and immediately intrigues with her style and her eyes, so full of quiet strength, and yet there’s something sad behind them, too. A secret perhaps, or a disappointment. And suddenly her name is Flo and I’m meeting her for tea and cake in the common room at Women’s College across the other side of Sydney University, where she’s studying law, and she’s annoyed more than sad that, while she’s doing well at her studies, it appears the Boys Club will never allow her to practice. She thinks she’ll leave for San Francisco, where women can do anything they like – apart from vote, of course.
Go Flo. Then in walks her best friend Irene:
Turns out they’re planning to go to San Francisco together, where they’d like to set up an office exclusively for women clients – helping them extract cash from deadbeat husbands and bosses who’ve ripped them off. And once their formidable reputation is established, they’ll storm home to Sydney and do the same here, and with all the money they’ve made they’ll finance a massive campaign for the female suffrage, which will ultimately see them pushing the legislation through Australia’s brand new Federal Parliament themselves – carrying it aloft into the house on a tray decorated all around with big blousy bright pink shantung roses. Irene’s laughter is deep and rich and the traces of Glaswegian brogue in her words make them a promise.
Suddenly these women are more than a highly structured daydream. They are my friends too, and I’ll never forget having met them.
Or their other friend, Alice. She’s an Arts student, from Goondiwindi, and though she has no idea what she’d like to do with her life, she’ll be going along on this adventure with Flo and Irene too – as security:
If you’d like to go Troving too, go here: http://trove.nla.gov.au/