Late last year some pretty sobering numbers were published in a research paper focussing on women in wine industry. The Galbreath papers (2014) research showed that only 9% of winemakers and viticulturists are women. Female wine business owners or management fair a little better at almost 13%, but the trends are all on the decrease. These numbers really shocked me. There are some extremely talented females in the industry, but it does have a history of being a bit of a ‘boys club’, and that can provide challenges sometimes.
No use dwelling on these sobering numbers, we needed to start enticing more women into our fabulous industry and work harder to keep the ones we have. Simply waiting for change to happen wasn’t working. A group of women in wine connected and created the inaugural ‘Australian Women in Wine Awards’. The winners were unveiled on the 17th of November 2015, and included fellow locals Irina Santiago-Brown & Rose Kentish, as well as finalist Briony Hoare. As part of the judging team, I can’t begin to describe how inspiring ALL the applicant’s stories were.
It got me to thinking- what are the stories of the generations of women in our family. Being a farming family, there always tends to be a focus on the men. Oliver’s Taranga is currently very female heavy, with Brioni & I at the helm, but that wasn’t always the case!
I think back on Elizabeth Oliver, the first generation of our family to leave Scotland for the wilds of the new colony in the late 1830’s. Much fuss is made of her husband William, he is mentioned in numerous articles of the time regarding his farming prowess, and there is no doubt he was a hard worker and successful businessman. Meanwhile, all Elizabeth was doing was raising 10 (yes 10!) children, in a place that had no running water, no electricity and no infrastructure! She lost three of her children to childhood disease, including two within a week of each other.
The second generation saw Ruth Oliver enter into the fold. She married Archibald, who had inherited portions of the Taranga property in 1888 upon the death of his father, and who by all accounts had a bit of a drinking problem that shortened his life. When Archibald died at 57, Ruth took over running of the family farm, allegedly forbidding alcohol. She had 4 children, and is immortalised by some very stern looking family photos! Even the Kay Brothers records mention buying grapes from Mrs. Oliver in the 1920’s. I would have liked to meet her, I am pretty sure that a female business owner in the early 1900’s would have been a rarity.
Cue third generation, Kathleen Oliver. Married to R.W.Oliver. Mother of 3, Grandmother of 9, Kathleen was responsible for the daily milking the cows and providing food for the family. Every Tuesday she travelled into the Adelaide Central Markets to get fruit and vegetables for all the families on the Taranga property. She never forgot a small treat for all of her grandkids each trip.
Fourth generation Marjorie is still the matriarch of our family. Married to HJ, mother to Robyn, Don and Morris, grandmother to Corrina, Ben, Brioni, Sam and Jared, and great-grandmother to Miah and Koen. Marjorie made all the clothes for her family (including her famous knitted socks) and fed everyone hot meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Her biscuit tin was extremely sought after by all who visited. She kept life on the farm running smoothly, always in the background, always with the great smells and warm hands, the hugs and the time to listen.
Brioni & I have a lot to live up too…..no pressure!! Here’s to celebrating International Womens Day around the world. #winechicksrule #girlstothefront