Thursday, 18 November 2010

House history research

In my quest to complete a house history for the Sow's Ear, I am finding the original owners of the house far more interesting than the house itself! Particularly dear Zoila Ceferina Mabel Stables.

I've been liaising with The University of Queensland about Zoila Stables who was an Arts student in the 1920s. The archivist was only able to give me a date of graduation which was 1928; the year that the Sow's Ear was built.

There was nothing else, however she did say to contact the Fryer Library on the Campus as they held publications and manuscripts of some of Australia's leading writers. I knew Zoila had written a book.


"Our Austlit database records that Zolia Stables wrote under the pseudonym of “Eleanor Peters”.  

It states:  “’Eleanor Peters’ was the pseudonym of Zoila M. Stables, who was born in Argentina of English parents and moved to Australia some time before the publication of ‘Tare Harvest’, her only work.” 

The Fryer Library said there are no copies of this book held in Australian libraries.

I knew Zoila held the copyright of Tare Harvest by Eleanor Peters, but did not put two and two together.

Zoila was Eleanor!

screen print of an excerpt from an American publishers journal about Ms Peters/Zoila

I know I will be able to track down biographical information and literary reviews from when the book was published in 1936.

The new information also explained why I could not find Australian birth records for the Stables family and why Zoila had a Spanish name.

A quick search on the Queensland State Archives site lead to the Stables immigration records. Zoila entered Australia in 1911 under the name of Mabel Stables. She was 11 years old.

She arrived with  her nine-year old sister Florence (her middle name Ethel was used in the immigration records), seven-year old brother Stanley and 39 year old Mother Mary (Florence was used in the records).

Now I have approximate years of birth for the first owners of the Sow's Ear, which is terrific.

The best news is the Fryer Library said they were interested in acquiring a second-hand copy of Tare Harvest, because they aim to have a comprehensive collection of Australian literature and also Zoila was a past UQ student.

A good week for research! And maybe Zoila wasn't such a fruit-loop after all...


  1. Wow, how amazing that you are doing all this research. No doubt you are going to track down and read the book. I can't wait to hear more... ;-)

  2. awesome.... i love this. whether loopy or not she is c.o.o.l

  3. Great research Detective. Your post got me thinking....Perhaps it is a nice idea to do a 'House journal' for the future. Say our house is 14 years old and has only had (2) owners, should I start documenting interesting facts about the place for future owners who might be interested in its 'history'. Mmm...another project perhaps?? What sort of things do you like knowing or finding out about the 'Sow's ear'? Zoila sounds fascinating, I bet you she smoked those long cigarettes on a chaise lounge on the verandah...

  4. VERY COOL! Very cool indeed.

    Well done

  5. You would make a great stalker!!! lol...or detective. Whichever you prefer...

  6. That's really exciting! You are having much better luck than me...maybe I should get you onto my house's history when you've done yours??

  7. Golly! That's fascinating! I loved reading this post - in fact I couldn't read it fast enough!

    Who calls their daughter Mabel Stables? No wonder she was kooky.

    Keep us posted on the latest developments! I'll sit staring at the computer until then!

  8. I'm very impressed with your sleuthing abilities Anita!

  9. I see a career in Private investigation looming for you Anita.
    Here in my small town, to find our about our house we invited the previous owner, son of the family who built the house for afternoon tea. He and his family had been the one and only owners of the house. We think the friendly ghost of his mother used to lurk in the kitchen and under the clothesline. When we took the roof off to renovate the kitchen, we thinks she moved on.

  10. I don't usually comment but I just had to leave one after this post. How interesting and exciting! Well done on the research. I can't wait to read more....

  11. that's so cool - and what a name!! have a great weekend darl xx

  12. Fascinating! How fun to find treasures like this.


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