Bates, Daisy May


Bates, Daisy May
O'Dwyer, Daisy


Bibliographic Dictionary Entry




O'Toole, Tina


Munster Women Writers Project, University College Cork


Women in Irish Society Project, University College Cork




Munster, Ireland, 1800-2000









Women, Writers, Munster


O'Toole, Tina

Birth Date


Death Date



Co Tipperary

Place of Association

Roscrea, Co Tipperary

Biographical Text

Daisy O'Dwyer's origins are a little obscure - she tells us herself that she was raised by grandparents in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, but other accounts suggest that she may have grown up in an orphanage. She is best known for her life and travels in Australia. She emigrated to Townsville in 1883, working first as a governess on a North Queensland cattle ranch, and then she married a stockman Edwin Henry Morant in 1884. Kelly tells us that her husband was the famous "Breaker Morant" executed by a British firing squad during the Boer war - when Daisy met him he was a flamboyant horseman and womaniser, and their marriage barely lasted a year (Kelly 119-120). Daisy then married Jack Bates, another tough cattle man, in 1885, and they had a son, Albert. Jack Bates taught Daisy how to survive in the outback, but again, this marriage was not a success. Leaving Jack, Daisy travelled widely throughout Australia, staying with friends as she moved about.

She was financially ruined in the economic crash of the 1890s, and left for England, leaving her son with his father. She lived with a cousin in Ireland, and following an introduction to W.T.Stead, began to write articles for Review of Reviews and the Pall Mall Gazette. She moved to London and lived in a women's hostel, and although her lifestyle conformed to the New Woman stereotype, she was no fan of these early feminists. When she recovered some of her lost money, she paid her fare back to Australia. En route, she travelled with a Catholic priest who worked with Australia's indigenous tribes, and this was the origin of her interest in recording the languages and customs of those tribes.

Bates was reunited with her son, but less than twelve months later set off on her travels again - this time for Australia's north west coast. Her first visit to the Trappist Mission in N.W.Australia is recounted in The Passing of the Aborigines (1938). She went on to study the Koolarrubulloo tribes while living at Broome, and later lived with the Bibbulmun tribe near Perth for two years.

By the late 1890s, Bates was a recognised authority on Australian aboriginal tribes, she gave lectures to the Royal Geographical Society and was consulted by anthropologists. She understood the importance of place, and kin, to these tribes, and came to be known as Kabbarli, the Grandmother, to the natives of Shark Bay. In 1910, she was appointed as a travelling protector to the aborigines on an expedition with Radcliffe Brown, Australia's first professor of anthropology. He intended to study the habits of a variety of tribes, but Bates was necessary to the expedition as she had already built up links with these tribes, and she was trusted by them. Their trip was a controversial one, and Bates accused Browne of stealing and plagiarising her notes.<

In-between her long spells of living in the bush, she and Jack lived together on his ranch at Glen Carrick, but they finally separated in 1912. In the 1920s she wrote for Mee's Children's Newspaper and the Australasian. However, her best-known work, based on her life's work, was The Passing of the Aborigines (1938). Much of her research remains unpublished.


The Passing of the Aborigines Melbourne Heinemann 1938

Writing Genre

Travel Writing
Social History