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The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
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The Road from Coorain (1989)

by Jill Ker Conway

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Jill Ker Conway was the first woman to serve as president of Smith College in Massachusetts, and this memoir depicts the first part of her life journey, from birth on an Australian sheep farm to her mid-20s, when she left for the United States. Conway’s parents became homesteaders in a remote part of Australia in 1929, as part of a government program granting land to former soldiers. It was a hard and isolated life, but they had many years of successful farming until a drought hit. A significant life event led them from Coorain to Sidney, where at age 11, Conway attended school with other children for the first time. The rest of the memoir describes her intellectual growth in the face of gender discrimination, her changing role in the family, and her relationship with her mother which presented several conflicts and dilemmas as Conway matured.

I found Conway’s story quite interesting, especially her fight against societal pressure to conform to the expected female role. Ultimately she had to leave her home country to pursue her dreams, which made me curious about the later phases in her life and whether she ever felt “at home” in Australia again. But those are subjects of later memoirs … ( )
  lauralkeet | May 23, 2015 |
Beautifully written autobiography--practically a page-turner--that takes the author from her childhood on a sheep ranch in Australia's outback to the University of Sydney and her departure for the United States and Harvard. ( )
  erinfanning | Mar 24, 2015 |
Synopsis: Jill Ker Conway grew up on a sheep ranch carved from the unforgiving land in New South Wales. Here life there was idyllic until the eight-year drought killed her father and banished the rest of her family to Sydney. Her struggles to ground herself within this unfamiliar culture cemented her love of learning. Her relationship with her mother, only a strong person when in her guise as a professional, finally pushed Jill to leave Australia for a future in the US.
Review: The first few chapters seemed an overly sentimental remembrance of childhood. However, as her story progressed, a much more realistic version of the life of a female in the 1950s took shape. Coming to grips with prejudice, both overt and covert, is difficult and this struggle is masterly recounted. I find it irritating and a bit depressing that attitudes toward smart, strong women haven't changed much over the years. ( )
  DrLed | Mar 1, 2015 |
This book is a memoir of Jill Ker Conway's life growing up in Australia until she left to come to America at age 26. Her parents acquired land in the New Soth Wales outback of Australia and started a sheep ranch out there. Jill was born out there and had 2 older brothers. Because the ranches are so huge, a child's life is somewhat solitary. Then there was a drought and her father died under circumstances that indicated it might have been suicide instead of an accident and the family left and moved to Sydney leaving a manger on the farm.

The book continues to tell her story until she leaves Australia at the age of 26 to attend graduate school at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. Although not part of the story, she eventually is appointed the first woman president of Smith College in Massachusetts in 1975. (Smith is a women's college)

Her observations about her mother and living with her "eccentricities", changes in viewpoint, and demanding nature were hard to read sometimes. That Ms Conway could write about her mother so honestly must have been hard to do as she does not come off as a nice person.

I really enjoyed this and it's been sitting in my TBR pile at least since I started keeping track of it in 2009. I wonder what other gems are in there, sitting neglected and patiently waiting? ( )
  dudes22 | Oct 26, 2014 |
Wonderful book. Many very memorable stories. My mother-in-law, Tatty recommended this and I am very glad she did. I have suggested it to lots of my friends. If you like this you might also like 20 Chickens for a Saddle that takes place in Botswana. ( )
  njcur | Jul 9, 2014 |
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The western plains of New South Wales are grasslands.
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Given me by Jack Roberts on very high recommendation, 12/18/13.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679724362, Paperback)

From the shelter of a protective family, to the lessons of tragedy and independence, this is an indelible portrait of a harsh and beautiful country and the inspiring story of a remarkable woman's life.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:56 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A woman of intellect and ambition describes growing up on an Australian ranch, coping with her father's death and her mother's depression, her intellectual awakening at the university, and her path to becoming Smith College's first woman president.

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