Scenes from Sheila's early story
A childhood on Stewart Island
Sheila grew up on Stewart Island in the 1930s. Money was scarce, and wild food (mostly fish and venison) often appeared on the family table.
On her father's side of her family Sheila is descended from the German missionary Johann Wohlers, who came to the Maori settlement on Ruapuke Island in 1840; and from a distinguished family of amateur naturalists from Scotland, the Traills.
On her mother's side Sheila comes from a family of talented artists and musicians.
Sheila's career as a writer and illustrator has combined the talents and interests she received from both sides of her family.
Sheila's first impression of the Director
Sheila graduated in 1949 and moved to Wellington to work firstly at the Dominion Museum, then at the National Library and finally at the Correspondence School, where her writing and drawing ability and her scientific knowledge enabled her to create new teaching materials.
A student and a teacher
Sheila was a star pupil at Half Moon Bay School, and finished her primary schooling a year early. She enrolled at Southland Girls High School in 1938, just before she turned 12.
Sheila moved to Dunedin to study at the teachers' Training College in 1943. There she met and became lifelong friends with Janet Frame.
Sheila's studies at Otago University included both sciences (papers in Botany, Geology and Zoology) and arts (she majored in French and English, and did an Honours degree in English).