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The Washerwoman’s Dream


This is the remarkable story of an extraordinary life.  Winifred Steger was born in England in 1882.  To break the cycle of poverty her father takes part in a land grab and books a passage for his family to head for Australia, work the land and strike it rich.

Arriving in Australia, Winifred and her father find that their land grant is covered with a prison of prickly pear and is worthless.  Faced again with poverty, endless backbreaking work and isolation in an unfamiliar country, Winifred’s father spirals into depression and alcoholism leaving Winifred emotionally along.  From skivvy in a bawdy house to loveless marriage, Winifred battles almost insurmountable odds to maintain her dignity and sanity, finding solace as she creates fictitious scenarios to ease her hardship.

The Washerwoman’s Dream is an epic story that could easily be the stuff of fiction.  Hilarie Lindsay has meticulously researched and reconstructed Winifred’s life through her memoirs, newspaper articles, short stories, letters and 14 unpublished novels.  This is an account of the amazing life of a forgotten Australian writer and a woman with indomitable spirit.



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The epic true story of the indomitable Winifred Steger and her extraordinary life in 19th century outback Australia.

Born in London, Winifred Steger emigrated to Australia in 1890.
The land grant that had lured her father to Far North Queensland proved worthless and they battled for many years to keep themselves alive.
Later locked into a loveless marriage, Winifred was eventually driven away by her bullying husband and forced to leave her four young children behind.
She found work in Outback pubs and fell in love with Ali, an Indian trader whom she married.
Winifred was probably the first woman in Australia to convert to Islam.
Three children followed, and the family travelled through the Queensland and South Australian Outback with their camels until Ali was summoned to India, where he died from cholera.
Winifred’s further loves and adventures, including a pilgrimage to Mecca, culminated in an invitation to become a tutor to the king and queen of Afghanistan.
She recounted her experiences in a series of lively dispatches for South Australian newspapers until, once again, fate stepped in – civil strife forced the royals to flee and Winifred to return to Australia.
A writer all her life, in her later years Winifred became a prolific letter writer and novelist.
Hilarie Lindsay has reconstructed Winifred’s life through her memoirs, newspaper articles, short stories, letters and 14 unpublished novels.
Winifred Steger was a battler, a survivor, a true pioneer and, above all, a woman of indomitable spirit.

Additional information

Weight .435 kg
Dimensions 23.3 × 15.2 × 2.7 cm


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