Merimbula woman celebrates 100 "fine" years

Curious and capable: Marjorie Henderson photographed as a small child. Ms Henderson turned 100 on Monday, March 18. Photo: supplied

Curious and capable: Marjorie Henderson photographed as a small child. Ms Henderson turned 100 on Monday, March 18. Photo: supplied

"Mum what will happen to all the birds once all the trees are gone?" said five -year-old Marjorie Henderson holding her mother's hand as they witnessed the last of the trees on their Mallee region farm being cut down.

That was just short of a century ago. Now that very same curious girl is turning 100.

On Monday , March 18 Ms Henderson will celebrated her 100th birthday with her family and friends. 

"She has always been a forward thinker. A woman clearly years ahead of her time," said her daughter Shelley Cutlack.

"She was strong willed right from the beginning."

A letter from the Queen may well be on the way. But Ms Cutlack has also created a hand made card of the finest of detail for her mother. Intricately folded paper flowers sit on tiny gold leaves surrounding the silver "Happy Birthday."

Fine details for a woman who's life has had so many details, it's surprising a novel hasn't been written about her.

Ms Cutlack referred to her mother as a woman who was curious, self educated and an avid reader.

"She was able to cut through prejudice and ignorance and make a life for herself as well as inspiring other women," she said.

In the 1950's Ms Henderson( a sole parent of two) ran a successful dressmaking business from her suburban Melbourne home. What began as a small lounge room business in the 1950's soon built up into a hive of activity where her clients; politicians wives, newspapers editor's wives and other women of prestige would gather for fittings.

"She fitted the women in our lounge room, women were disrobing and chatting so much, they'd often leave- leaving bits of jewellery laying on the mantle piece," Ms Cutlack recalled.

"You had women in the 1950's, 60's and 70's living in a conservative area, who would turn the dress fitting into social occasion. It was a moment to talk openly.  At times she'd have some very unhappy women there. Women who were trapped in unhappy marriages." 

Ms Cutlack said her mother's ability to listen, console and offer advice, sometimes over a glass of whisky or wine, would giver her clients the strength and courage to go on . 

"I think sometimes they bought a piece of fabric just to come back and enjoy her company."

Ms Henderson's attention to detail and fine dress making skills also saw her nominated for the high fashion award "Gown of the Year" three years in a row. However not having a model for her dresses she humbly declined participation. 

"She was incredibly gratified that they realised what a talented dress maker she was." 

Ms Henderson ran her successful dressmaking business for many years before retiring. However idling into a restful retirement was not part of her nature. At the ripe old age of 80 Ms Henderson took up an apprenticeship as a china mender. 

"Living in Castlemaine in Victoria she saw a need for restoring antiques and so she started up another thriving business. The dressmaking skills came through and she was really good at it."

Sadly Ms Henderson suffered a stroke in her early 90's. Now living in aged care, she slips in and out of dementia and no longer has the ability to create magic with her hands.

However; Ms Cutlack said when her mother has moments of clarity she is still the same woman who questioned the world as a child and the same woman who lived her life believing in herself. 

"Maybe there's something in that," said Ms Cutlack proudly. "Not everyone lives until they are 100."

Marjorie Henderson  (centre) celebrates her 100th birthday surrounded by her family.
(L-R) Andrew Richardson, Finn Richardson, Scarlett Richardson , Shelley Cutlack , Rodney Stephens and Santina Lo -Presti

Marjorie Henderson (centre) celebrates her 100th birthday surrounded by her family. (L-R) Andrew Richardson, Finn Richardson, Scarlett Richardson , Shelley Cutlack , Rodney Stephens and Santina Lo -Presti

This story Merimbula woman celebrates 100 "fine" years first appeared on Merimbula News Weekly.