Elizabeth (Eliza) Shaw was a botanical painter and writer as well as an excellent pianist and needlewoman. She arrived with her family in Western Australia in February 1830. Tragically, her two eldest sons drowned in November of the same year.
botanical painter and writer, was born in Newmarket, Leicestershire, eldest daughter of the four children of Captain and Mrs Nathan Cooper. Later the family moved to Dublin where, on 8 April 1813 in the Round Church of St Andrew, Eliza Cooper married Captain William (Will) Shaw of the Rifle Brigade. In 1829 the Shaws, their four sons and two daughters migrated to Western Australia, arriving at Fremantle on 13 February 1830 on board the Egyptian . They settled at Belvoir on the Upper Swan River where they were neighbours of the Irwins (see Elizabeth Irwin ), Tanners, Burgesses and Brockmans – cultured, devout members of the colony’s Anglican establishment. Tragically, the Shaws’ two eldest sons, aged twelve and seven, were drowned at Belvoir on 10 November 1830. They later had two more daughters and another son. After Will died in 1862 Eliza sold Belvoir and went to live with her daughter Mrs John Drummond at Geraldton. She died there on 18 August 1879.
Eliza Shaw was interested in the natural sciences and wrote long letters to her Leicestershire friend, Ellen Waghorne, on the 'curious flora and fauna, geological structures and indigenous inhabitants’ of her new home, as Durack points out. As befitted her class and sex, she was an excellent pianist and needlewoman (a youthful sampler of 1803 survives) and painted watercolour specimens of native flowers. The Shaws did not live in grand style; Eliza taught her daughter Elizabeth to play the piano on the Tanners’ nearby grand and the younger children went to Rev. J. Mitchell’s local 'brushwood school’ (established 1839). One of her early letters describes their original 'plaster and dab’ home: a structure 39 × 12 feet (11.8 × 3.6 m) divided into three rooms by canvas partitions, the main room having a fireplace and two small 'gothic’ windows purchased in Leicestershire. Her sketch of the cottage, drawn in 1831, shows it with a trellised kitchen behind.