Stella Grace Maisie Carr nee Fawcett was a botanist whose work with soil erosion revolutionised farming and grazing practices throughout Victoria’s High Country.

Born and raised in Footscray, she was a keen student and won scholarship places at Melbourne High School and the University of Melbourne.

Maisie’s mentor, botany professor John Turner, recommended her for a position studying the effects of soil erosion in the Hume Reservoir catchment area. She lived on her own in Omeo and learnt to ride a horse so that she could go out with the farmers to view the soil conditions of the region.

Known as ‘The Washaway Woman’ and ‘The Woman from Pretty Valley’, she proved that common farming and grazing practices were causing soil erosion and damage to water reservoirs in the High Country. She covered vast territories on horseback and became an expert on the history and ecology of alpine Australia.

By 1949, Maisie was back at the University of Melbourne, where she was a much- loved and respected lecturer in the botany department. Frustrated by the limitations of existing texts, she oversaw the publication of The Families and Genera of Victorian Plants, which became a key textbook.

Maisie married fellow botanist Denis Carr in 1955. Together they travelled widely and worked in Belfast before moving to Canberra in 1967 to take up positions at the Australian National University. The University of Melbourne’s Maisie Fawcett Scholarships and Monash University’s D.J. and S.G.M. Carr Travelling Scholarships recognise her significant contribution to academic research.

Video image credits:
Pictures Collection, State Library Victoria
Marion Manifold