Mrs Rawson's Tips and Tricks

Mrs Lance Rawson’s “Australian enquiry book of household and general information” is a popular transcribing assignment currently online for the State Library’s digital volunteer program Pitch In!

Accompanied by the wives of Lance’s two brothers, Winifred and Decima (sisters themselves), Wilhemina (known as Mina) worked hard making "The Hollow" a comfortable and ‘civilised’ place. SLQ has several photographs of the property including the drawing room which looks very cosy for 1875.

Drawing room at The Hollow, outside Mackay ca. 1875


"If you are anxious to become a good cook, do not despise the smaller details and say to yourself, " Oh, anyone knows that," or, " Everyone can cook this," for it is very often the smallest details that will spoil the effect of a really good dish..."

Divided into sensible and intriguing topics, she has everything covered: Cookery, The Household, Fancy Work, The Toilet, Medical, Farming, Curing and so on. Each chapter details classic recipes, some well-known and others obscure. For example, she has two cures for freckles (cucumber and skim milk or horseradish and sour-milk! You choose) and her cure for a stammer is to place pebbles in the mouth.

Her cooking recipes have rustled up lively discussion on Twitter and Facebook. One of our digital volunteers recently tweeted:

“Who knew duck eggs were no good for making sponge cakes or even cakes of any kind? Mrs Rawson did!”

State Library staff Margaret Warren and Pip Kelly recently tried Mina's biscuit recipes and brought them in for a staff tagging tea party. Margaret used Mrs Rawson's Vanilla Drops recipe and added a bit of 20th century flavour - blood orange rind:
"Vanilla Drops
Beat the yolks of
three eggs with one cup of white sugar. Add the whites well whisked. Stir into this a cupful of sifted flour, in which a small teaspoonful of cream of tartar has been mixed. Dissolve half a teaspoonful of soda in a little warm milk, and add it. After well beating the mixture, flavour with vanilla essence. Butter a baking tin, and drop the mixture in tablespoonsful upon it, about three inches apart. Bake in a very quick oven."

A perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea or some sewing on the verandah.

Charles and Winifred Rawson resting on the verandah of The Hollow ca. 1877

Charles and Winifred Rawson resting on the verandah of The Hollow ca. 1877

Mrs Rawson’s book is nearly 300 pages long and there are another 200 pages still needing correcting.  Jump on board and become a digital volunteer and enjoy reading and baking some of Queensland's most treasured recipes.

Many thanks to all of our wonderful contributors who have been dutifully transcribing this important historical book already, we look forward to more conversations on twitter and facebook.


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I recently discovered Mrs Rawson and her time in Maryborough and gave a talk to the local CWA branch at their AGM. I would be interested in acquiring a copy of Mrs Rawson's book when it is completed for our Heritage Institute. I don't think I have time at present to help with the transcribing as I am heavily committed with our Immigration Celebrations and writing three books on shipping into Maryborough. Al the best with the project. I find Mina a very fascinating woman - and especially like the story of how she resqued her child from a well in her backyard. Makes you wnder about her height and build!!!!

I'm one of Mina & Lance Rawson's many descendants - they were my great-grandparents. I have first editions (very, very tatty) of two of Mina's books - "The Antipodean Cookery Book", and the "Australian Enquiry Book", the latter inscribed in her own handwriting "To Winnie, from Mother, 'Charlton', Galston June 1907". It was a gift to my grandmother who had recently embarked on motherhood. Winnie was Mina's youngest child, born at Boonooroo. Perhaps she was even the one who fell down the well!Pictures I have of Mina show her to be of small to medium height and fairly solid build - certainly not the wispy-thin type. She would have needed all her strength to cope with the constant challenges of her life. Mina was an amazing woman. She had a hard life, but met difficulties with spirit, determination, humour and great resourcefulness. I'm glad to find that people are interested in her and her achievements. I doubt that I have the same pioneering spirit, but I'm very proud to be her great-grand-daughter!