Hilda Mary Hodge Freeman was born in Gordon, Victoria on the 6 October 1885. Although Hilda occupied a number of teaching positions throughout her life, she was perhaps better known for her contribution towards collecting and researching much of the Riverina's early folk history, which was to culminate in the publication Riverina Reminiscences. Hilda, however, died in 1937 before the manuscript was published.
Hilda first worked as a school teacher in the Ballarat district, then shifted overseas to England, where she accepted a teaching post at the Church Missionary Children's Home in Limpsfield. During her three year stay in England, she also studied a number of summer courses at Oxford University. She then lived and worked in Germany as a governess for Baron Von Klinggraef from January 1914 until she was repatriated in the following September after the outbreak of the First World War.
With an emergency passport she returned to England, then later to Australia, where she lectured and wrote about her experiences in Germany. She finally published her memoirs in An Australian Girl in Germany (1916). Apart from writing, Hilda took a keen interest in theatre production and had authored several one-act plays. Whilst in England she befriended the famous English actor, Henry Ainley.
Hilda settled in Grong Grong with her husband, Alfred Atkinson, in 1917. Hilda, who wrote under her maiden name, was first assigned by the Riverina Group of the Country Women's Association to collect and record the Riverina's early folklore and anecdotal history. The manuscript was to be produced by the CWA, but because of the Depression, not enough funds were available for it to be published. Since the manuscripts in the collection appear to be incomplete, one assumes that Hilda was still working on the project with the view to publication when she died. The manuscript was published eventually in 1985 by her daughter, Brenda Niccol.
Compiled by : James Logan.
Sources : Coolamon-Ganmain Farmers' Review, 1937; Niccol, Brenda, 'Something about the Author' and 'Preface' in Freeman, Hilda M., Murrumbidgee Memories and Riverina Reminiscences. Emu Plains, 1985.