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Sophia Corrie (1832–1913)

by Prim Moss

This article was published:

Sophia Corrie (1832-1913), farmer, orchardist and writer, was born on 26 November 1832 at Hunter Street, Sydney, daughter of John Wheeler, dealer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Brumby. Sophie's parents had been orchardists at Curl Curl Lagoon where the Wheeler pear was evolved by the budding process. She attended a dame's school in Phillip Street. On 20 October 1855 in Sydney she married with Wesleyan forms William Christian McDona, a Dublin-born surgeon. He died of heart and lung disease in 1857, aged 29. On 25 January 1862 at Surry Hills, again in a Wesleyan service, she married Charles Pitman Corrie, an ironmonger from the Isle of Wight. They had seven children between 1863 and 1876.

Following the death of her second husband in 1875, to give her children healthy fruit, milk, vegetables and fresh air Sophie settled at Bargo Brush (Colo Vale), near Mittagong, where a 'slab and bark hut in an uncleared paddock was her first home'. Purchasing 40 acres (16 ha) and free selecting some 600 acres (240 ha), she cleared the selected land, helped with the burning off and fencing, and planted and attended to every fruit tree until her children were old enough to help.

For some sixteen years Mrs Corrie was a constant exhibitor and sometime judge at local country shows and for ten years at the Sydney Royal Show, where she was a frequent prize-winner. In all she claimed to have won over 700 prizes with 500 firsts—including the local Royal Agricultural Society's 1893 national prize of ten guineas for the best method of utilizing surplus fruit and vegetables. She also collected two silver medals for candied dried fruits, pickles and condiments.

Corrie needed to be independent, as Bargo Brush had bad roads, no schools or police and was a bushranging area. She encouraged self-sufficiency in her book The Art of Canning, Bottling and Preserving Fruits, published in Sydney in 1892 and reprinted six times by 1913. Aimed at housewives making their own preserves, it was notable for an emphasis on technique. For preserving fruits she preferred cans to the more popular bottles and claimed that it was the exclusion of air, rather than the presence of sugar, that prevented fermentation. Her book was full of commonsense advice:

There is no need to call a tinsmith to solder lids on preserves. The housewife can accomplish the task herself with little difficulty. Do it yourself.
In April 1906 Corrie travelled in the Ventura (Miles Franklin was a fellow passenger) to the United States of America, then on to Europe and Britain, visiting friends and relations and attending the opening of parliament in London. On her return to Sydney in 1908, she was the first woman to be appointed to a seat on the council of the New South Wales Chamber of Agriculture.

While attending her son Arthur's wedding in Brisbane in 1913, Corrie caught a chill, and died at Bowen Hills on 27 September. She was buried in the family vault in the Methodist section of Rookwood cemetery, Sydney. Two sons and two daughters survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Bannerman, A Friend in the Kitchen (Syd, 1996)
  • Station, Farm and Dairy, 26 Apr 1906, p 1826
  • Town and Country Journal, 28 Oct 1908, p 39
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Oct 1913, p 7, 8 Oct 1913, p 7, 15 Oct 1913, p 7
  • letter, Corrie to Lady Windeyer, 25 Oct 1892 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Prim Moss, 'Corrie, Sophia (1832–1913)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 15 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McDona, Sophia
  • Wheeler, Sophia

26 November, 1832
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


27 September, 1913 (aged 80)
Bowen Hills, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.