‘Murdering Stepmothers’ wins the 2011 Margaret Medcalf Award

Author and Professor of Humanities at Griffith University, Anna Haebich is this year’s winner of the Margaret Medcalf Award for her book, Murdering Stepmothers: the execution of Martha Rendell, which explores the murders of three Perth children in 1909.

The Margaret Medcalf Award is presented annually by the State Records Office of Western Australia for works published or completed in the previous calendar year which display excellence in referencing and research using archives. The award is named in honour of the second State Archivist, for her valuable contribution to the development of archives in Western Australia.

Professor Haebich was presented with the award and prize money of $1,000 by the Auditor General and Chairperson of the State Records Commission, Colin Murphy, accompanied by Margaret Medcalf at a ceremony today at the State Library of Western Australia.

Mr Murphy said that in Murdering Stepmothers, Prof. Haebich demonstrated the use of archives in an innovative work involving elements of fiction.

“In exploring the story of the trial and execution of the last woman hanged in Western Australia from multiple perspectives, Prof. Haebich generates new insights into events surrounding the murders of these children and makes an original contribution to our understanding of women and crime.” Mr Murphy said.

The judges commended the author’s skill in bringing together archives, history and fiction in this highly compelling read. ”The book brings to life the people of Perth and the community attitudes stirred by elements of the press, which propel the trial of Martha Rendell to its inevitable end,” Mr Murphy said.

Murdering Stepmothers was published by UWA Publishing in 2010.

Paul Dench and Alison Gregg were commended for their book Carnarvon and Apollo: one giant leap for a small Australian town, a lively exploration of Carnarvon's critical role in support of NASA space missions, published by Rosenberg Publishing. Mr Dench was the first engineer recruited to work at the station, eventually becoming station manager and Ms Gregg was a newspaper reporter and wife of one of the station’s technicians.

This year’s award judges were The University of Western Australia Associate Professor Andrea Gaynor, State Records Commissioner Justine McDermott, and State Archivist and Executive Director of the State Records Office Cathrin Cassarchis.

(image courtesy UWA Publishing)