Ursula Bethell

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in z.com and funded through a generous grant from the Galen Wellington trust with the support of the rule foundation. [00:00:10] Hi, I'm Dr. Allison Lori. I was the Women's Studies Program Director at Victoria University Wellington here in New Zealand for many years, I'm a writer or historian and lesbian and gay activist. Today I'm going to be looking at the poet Miri Ursula Bissell, who lived between 1874 1945 [00:00:30] and I'm going to be looking at her relationship with if he pollen, Henrietta Dorothea, if you pull on who was five years younger, she left between 1879 and body 34 and at Priscilla's reactions after the death of iffy which were very sad and tragic, and also with her later relationship with some other women. [00:00:57] The relationship between physical abuse and woman she called her consort, if he lasted for over 30 years. They looked as expatriates for many years and didn't return to live in New Zealand until they're in their 40s. And when they were able to establish an independent and private domestic life, a Beatles wills created an idyllic context for the relationship. And the mystic and creative life was protected by her class position, and the effluent crust rich suburb of Kashmir base all right most of her poetry during the period of her relationship with pollen, describing their home garden life together, and she was devastated by Poland's dis. The relationship has been presented by some biographers as platonic and maternal. And it's interesting about this because Bissell herself sometimes use the term maternal to explain her feelings. However, from the early 20th century, there was an influential homesick maternal discourse, explaining Liz pianism and the well educated and traveled Bissell master been familiar with this material, besides expression, maternal constituent in my faction, similarly to expressions like spinster, old maid, Bruce docking, and the lady has been done otherwise that some earlier woman may have referred to the really important, romantic, passionate and sexual relationships with other women. [00:02:32] isn't a base it was the first child of Isabel and Richard Bissell she was born in sorry, England in 1874. The family returned to New Zealand The following year, and they lived at Nelson and the net rank era with a father Richard died in 1882. And the family will if moderately wealthy, she attended Christian Schools High School and Racine educated overseas at missiles B school and Oxford, England and they let us was school in Lake Geneva. She returned to New Zealand at the age of 18 and 1892 and did social work on the ostrich and can diocese until the second trip to England in 1995. To study painting in Geneva and music and Dresden. This is interesting because dressed and has a lot of associations with women going to study. It's also it also figures as a place with later a strong branch of the Institute for sexual science set up by Magnus Hirschfeld, and it's the city where the first transgender operation was performed in the early part of the 20th century, so it's interesting that she was there. Clearly. There were a number of communities there which could be a greater investigation. Anyway, she moves back to London where she joins the great ladies and Anglican women community and that's where she meets if you pull on and 1905 when she's 31 and Poland is 26 when Poland returned to New Zealand before followed and from 1910 she lived with her mother and said Robins Christchurch continuing work in the parish, and she goes back to London for wartime work between 1914 to 18. And the Truman civil back and cross streets from 1919 where she purchases rise cottage at Western terrorists on the Kashmir hills. They love at Rice cottage until pollen season 1934 when Bethel moves back to web Street and Christchurch, which is one of the family properties and she dies in 1945. She's buried in the Bissell family grave during your if he pollen is buried at crew symmetry with the pollen family. If he was the Dorito Henry Poland from Ireland and Kathleen Burke from Napier, she had one younger sister and the family had lived in Brisbane, where if he was born until they moved to Wellington with Dr. Paul and established his medical practice and his residence at Ball Court Street and a house which has been moved now to the corner of bull called Street and Wall Street, and which has today a restaurant and has had number of existence as quite an attractive house if his mother died in 1894, and Dr. Pollan died during influenza epidemic and 1918 they were buried in the Family Plot up to Rory and that was way if he was then subsequently buried after it is from a brain hemorrhage, aged only 55 in 1934. And despite the 30 year relationship, this interrupted family expectations that each will be buried in their respective family ports. [00:05:59] If he is Islam, admits in 1905 when if he had become involved with Islam, and had began to live with the Bethel family in the subsequent life, living together at the home and rice cottage before, calls pollen, her little Raven in a poem called grace, she writes, I have a little Raven who brings me my dinner. Patrice has a raven, Patricia Raven, she brings me my dinner, but not by a book. She feeds me. she scolds me, she calls me She feeds me, I'm hungry all center, she brings me my dinner, she cooks in the kitchen beside a cookery book. Little Raven was a famously lively racing pony of the 1890s and perhaps pistols pit name from Poland was based on this characteristic. The activity expressed in the poem suggests energy and liveliness, the hungry old Center, a reference to a stereotypical New Zealand vascular disease scolded by the columns, sort and the poem, discipline and this poem before writes, I said, I will go into the garden and consider roses I loved I will observe the deployment of their peoples and compare one variety with another, but I was made to sit down and scrape potatoes. The mornings rose buds passed by an attended what I said bound to an office kitchen industry. Happy at the heart of my concert was exhilarated and virtuous renunciation I received praise. The taste of the potatoes was satisfactory, with a sprig of fresh mint, dearie, butter, and very young, green pains. If you Poland seems to have taken a practical and cheerful approach to life, and certainly seems to have known how to manage so who seems to have been rather more temperamental, Bissell wrote, my darling announced one day that as for her she couldn't see anything in life, which consists of doing what you didn't want to do, and doing without what you read choir, and she just didn't agree with creation. And this seems to me to be a comment on lesbianism and relationships between women. Paul and may have been influenced by romantic evangelism and other forms of radical Christian thinking that did not regard any loving relationship is sinful, possibly based on head held similar views with their religious ideas in harmony with their relationship. This comment on what you require suggest they might have held modern ideas on health and sexuality and thought that they were perfectly entitled to have such a relationship. However, though, they might have been positive about the relationship and private, they were quite careful in public. While guarding the privacy they did invite friends to visit including homosexual mean, the bisexual artist toss Wollaston was a friend and [00:08:57] also the wealthy homosexual child, brash was a friend and what he does it crystal visited and various other people so they they were not isolated despite the private nature of the relationship and certainly some of the Beatles littles true Rodney Kennedy imply more communication and discussion of same sex relationships has these leaders and the Hawk and I Bry and to Needham, after if you died, Poland as grief stricken, it happened very suddenly. It was a few days after Bissell 60th birthday. Pollen complained of severe headaches, she went to bed and she died three weeks later. The distraught Bissell wrote openly of her grief for pollen and letters and in the six Memorial poems composed on the interview series of pollens these these problems were not intended for publication that she sent copies to friends, and they were not published in five years after her in death. The first Memorial poem was written in October 1925, which she wrote, The green has come back the spring green, the new green, darling, the young green upon the field willows, and the gorse on the wild hills was never so yellow. Together past years, we have looked on the scene. You will laughter my liking and product my last one, I must assemble and smile still for your sake. Now that I know how springtime is heartbreak. Now you have left me to look upon all that as lovely alone. [00:10:36] As the second anniversary of Poland's days approach, Bissell wrote to Robbie Kennedy, that the loneliness closed round we again to which I'm going accustomed and only sometimes dear to think of the years when everything was shared. I am not proud, Rodney of all the sadness of looking back. I think that is limiting God because it is as good as saying that his resources have ran out that he can't do as much again that something uniquely beautiful has perished. I don't really hold with that. But it does seem as if this darkness was something I have to endure. [00:11:10] She thought through that that was really sad sipping my things alone she could not go on in a muddle and there's your last friend would rather have me found and pleasing surroundings. So I shall have to go on with it to please her. And the second Memorial palm November 1936. She wrote that she tried to brighten up the web st house. Today I traumatized lonely dwelling place was flowers, memories asked gallons. I see you darling disposed left handed your bright benches and that happy home of ours. Because the years two months diminished days two hours, and love is stronger than this anger. I have adorned today alone my brief abiding place with flowers. [00:11:48] At the third anniversary, she wrote to Ronnie Kennedy, the utter devotion and love of an exquisite person was squandered daily, hourly on me. Adding that for these three years I've been waiting to know what to do with this desolation. The first task was to go on living without tenderness, without joy without fun without sharing needed by no one and going deeper into the better knowledge of how much war I might have given. She warned Kennedy, the front office everything to God, they know know what you are doing. Because if God takes that you will lift and great darkness and dread. Deciding to remain as home for this anniversary she wrote to him, perhaps I want to stay put now to my impulses to get away for race week that week that she lay dying [00:12:31] for third Memorial poem written in November 1937. She's writing about the web street garden which is loving, she mourns Lyft with all this I lack what made mine for the fourth anniversary of politics she visited the pollen family grave at Corey cemetery, which had previously been with if he was now all circles buried there. In November 30. He wrote dear is this for years I've been consenting to live onwards aligned. And she finally later to Kennedy that though they did not visit the family grave, often they was weak to go back. Now the thought of going there without the companion hulu's News The Desolation I have no superstitious feelings about cemeteries but it will be something to do on the day of November when she was caught away to go out and put a bunch of flowers beside your name. The fifth palm November 39 has written a deck a rower, the seaside town an hour from Christchurch on Bates peninsula. And this one explains once again My darling it has come the time you died and on this quiet harbor once again I look which when I now to join a casual throng, no more rounding alone acquaint of the sea scalloped track Shall I surprised receive my deal with the pace coming to meet me and with Eagle look of love and go companions nor my I asked To know such cherish company such tender love again. [00:13:54] She wrote to Kennedy that there were many reminders an echo row where we used to come together, but it is so quiet beautiful it is healing and the sixth and final Palm Spring 1940 written and Christchurch again more in the coming of spring. And the anniversary Poland is asking God to match spring with version spirit of beauty, bring with your persuasive love to the inward I awakening lyst looking on this life to count what time has taken, I cannot bear the pain. [00:14:23] And she wrote to Holcroft, soon after Poland's death, that it has been a complete shattering of my life from her. I had love tenderness and understanding for 30 years. I close and happy companionship and this house for 10 years, I shall not want another home on this planet. [00:14:46] And later, she she does develop friendships with other women. She develops a strong friendship with a woman Kathleen Taylor. She meets her and 1941 when she's 66 and Tyler's in her early 20s. And this relationship may have been platonic though her letters to Catherine Taylor are passionate and loving. And significantly, she does not write any further disappearing Memorial parts ready for Paul. And after she meets Catherine Taylor, she may have thought that God had managed that there was much again, when Tata came to live with her at web straight. However, she encourages Kathleen Tyler to marry. And she does she marries Davies. He is a curate. And it seems that she totally supports us. She wrote to Taylor, it was curiously natural to have you about capture. I felt it almost from the first. And later that I'd venture to put it in my career seeing that life was going on there. If it were possible, three things might come to me again, love and poetry and a home. And then she has strangely Anna and unexpectedly you deal with all of came to comparing it to my iffy coming 37 years ago. Because before I knew her, I felt sorry about her feeling lonely. Similarly, I didn't take you in at all. And the first evening, I asked you to come again because Paul said you were lonely in your lodging and I asked him whether you would care to count. The second time I remember seeing that you were a very right minded young woman. And then I was charmed by bit by you being hungry like a boy. Business attraction to Taylor's boyish and useful hunger maybe for food and maybe referring to our physical needs suggest a maternal attraction. And she does cool who relationships maternal. And given the 40 year age difference, this relationship may not have been particularly if at all sexual, and because of your engineering of Poland base with a well regarded all subsequent physical relationships as faceless to her memory. [00:17:04] Elisa written to Taylor when she was on her honeymoon with Davies says she writes and there's not that it's everything this two sided sexuality. I think my post shows that pretty clearly don't you there was peace and happiness for all the blemishes at Rice, cottage, and fun, such fun and you don't have fun without peace, lots of anxiety to and then perhaps the maternal constituent was having its day. So all of these letters and poems can be interpreted as strongly being influenced by Beatles love her. Her passionate attachments. Firstly to if you Paul and later Kathleen Taylor. Clearly influences with poetry clearly it's highly significant in her life, and I think to ignore these relationships will try to dismiss them as simple ordinary friendships, which was celibate is to ignore the depth of the lab the depth of the emotion, and the way in which she based her life on the importance of these friendships with other women. [00:18:11] This program was funded through a generous grant from the Galen Willington trust with the support of the room foundation and brought to you by pride in the.com.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio - it is not a transcript. The Artificial Intelligence Text is provided to help users when searching for keywords or phrases. The text has not been manually checked for accuracy against the original audio and will contain many errors.