• Ileen Macpherson: Life and tragedy of a pioneer of biodynamic farming at Demeter Farm and a benefactor of Anthroposophy in Australia

    John Paull (see profile)
    Women, Women's studies, History, Sustainability, Anthroposophy
    Item Type:
    new age, Rudolf Steiner, agricultural history, Sustainable technology, Biodynamics, Women's history
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    Edith Ileen Macpherson (1898-1984) was a co-founder of Australia’s original Demeter Farm (c.1934-1954) along with her partner Ernesto Genoni (1885-1974). Ileen was a member of Rudolf Steiner’s Experimental Circle of Anthroposophic Farmers and Gardeners (from 1936). Ernesto was the first Australian member (from 1928). At their Demeter Farm in Dandenong, Victoria, they practiced biodynamic agriculture on over 40 acres (16 ha) through the years of the Great Depression, through World War II, and for the first decade of the post-war years, producing milk, fruit, and vegetables. Ileen was an early Australian Anthroposophist and follower of Rudolf Steiner. It was a blow to their Demeter Farm enterprise when she fell ill. Eventually she was no longer able to manage physical work at all and this fell to Ernesto. Although she is remembered as ‘the woman in the wheelchair’ this paper reveals that she was previously an active, fit and keen sportswoman, participating in basketball, tennis, running, hockey, and dancing. At school she was known as ‘Ikey’, she was a prefect, she was a member of the school sports committee, and she won the prize for “best all-round sport”. Ileen was confined to a wheelchair for the last four decades of her life. The cause has generally been misunderstood and misattributed, and is revealed here to be pernicious anaemia (lack of vitamin B12). This condition is now easily and successfully treatable, but it was then generally fatal. Ileen was a financial supporter of the Anthroposophical movement in Australia during her lifetime. Her benefaction has continued since her death via the Ileen Macpherson Trust which reports having dispensed over $600,000 for Anthroposophic causes in Australia. A portrait of Ileen by Italian/Australian artist Ernesto Genoni and photographs of Ileen are presented.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago


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