The Case of Nie’s Refusal: Gender, Law and Consent in the Shadow of Pacific Slavery

Penelope Edmonds

In 1881 Nie (also known as Nai), a Pacific Islander woman, walked off ‘Virginia’
plantation, south of Maryborough, in the colony of Queensland. Crossing through cane fields, she travelled in the thick tropical heat to nearby ‘Gootchie’ plantation to take up work as a domestic servant. Walking off Virginia plantation was a courageous act – and indeed a sovereign act of refusal – for within two weeks Nie was violently retrieved from Gootchie by her former employer and British lawyer, Theodore Wood, who believed she had broken a verbal contract with him. Wood arrived at Gootchie with another man, Harry, where they found Nie working in the kitchen of the main house alongside Irish servant Annie O’Leary. When Nie refused to go with the men, they took hold of her by force. Nie clung to the leg of the kitchen table, but the men overpowered her. As Annie looked on in dismay, the men dragged Nie across the floor, tied her hands up, put her into a cart and took her back to Virginia plantation. The Polynesian Inspector (or Protector), H. M. Hall, was alerted to the incident at Gootchie and the matter soon went to court, where Wood was charged with assault.

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Journal Article
Submitted by Phoebe Nadenbousch
February 23, 2023
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