by Julie Glamuzina
This is one of those fascinating historical puzzles that tend to leave more questions than satisfactory answers, but lots of intrigue along the way.
Dr Dannevill arrived in New Zealand with a female companion from England, and helped set up something called the Lahmann Home in Miramar, Wellington in 1912. The ‘home’ was meant to be a sanctuary, providing some form of respite care for those suffering nervous exhaustion, and was thus something of a private psychiatric clinic.
But was Dr Dannevill really a medical doctor, with experience in researching venereal disease? Was her name actually Dannevill, and why did she use the prefix ‘von’, when it had aristocratic connotations? Was she actually Danish or not, and why did she often pose as a man to obtain work?
Julie Glamuzina asks all of these questions and more, without reaching compelling answers. Dr Dannevill was the subject of compulsion once suspected of being a German spy in 1917, a long time after war broke out, largely because of the failure of the Lahmann Home. We get to know quite a lot about her interrogation from the official archives, but her answers were still mostly evasive.
The book is written in the context of lesbian history, but all sorts of angles and explanations for Dannevill’s journeys are considered. Ultimately, there is not much of narrative here: we still don’t know much of her past, but after being released from confinement on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour, Dannevill heads down south with a former patient, and eventually leaves the country for good. So there is certainly a final journey, as the couple head to San Francisco, but no happy ending.
There is a lot of good archival investigation here, and excellent endnotes which add to the detail.
Much of the book is about contextual information, firstly about Dr Edith Huntley, who set up the Lahmann Home, and other associates in New Zealand. There are other entirely contextual chapters, about other female ‘global travellers’ and ‘scandalous women’ of that historical era. But ultimately it can be seen as a story of someone who didn’t fit in the society of the time, and was vulnerable to discrimination or persecution, especially when the State is looking for enemies within their borders.
Author: Julie Glamuzina
Publisher: DoubleaXe Press