Australian Women Writers, 1930s

Australian Women Writers Gen 3 Week 12-18 Jan. 2020

Dulcie Deamer

The title for this post is a straight steal from a post written by Whispering Gums (Sue) in 2014 (here) based on an article by Zora Cross in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1935. It is not my intention to plagiarise Sue, but rather to research the largely unknown women writers Cross lists for my Australian Women Writers Gen 3 page (here), though as it turns out, most of them are Gen 2 by age, or even Gen 1.

I was inspired to research by this line in Sue’s post:

[Daniel] Hamlyn, she says, won The Bulletin’s second novel competition, the first one having been jointly won by Katharine Susannah Prichard and M. Barnard Eldershaw.

Neither Sue nor I were able to find any other mention of Hamlyn (not by Google, the Annals of Australian Literature, nor the Oxford Companion), and I’m pretty sure (now!) that the second winner, in 1929, was Vance Palmer with The Passage. On the other hand, Zora Cross was there and should know.

Cross’s actual words are “Daniel Hamlyn, a winner in the second “Bulletin” novel competition, and a promising woman writer, is another” [of Mary Gilmore’s “discoveries”]. Who Hamlyn is will have to stay a mystery for a bit longer.

Three hours, and a few glasses of wine, later. Got it! In Trove, in a story about Vance Palmer. Second prize in 1929 went to Mrs Kay Glasson Taylor.

Final step Wikipedia. Kay Glasson Taylor’s novels “include Ginger for Pluck (published under the pseudonym “Daniel Hamline”, for young readers, 1929 … Her fiction is still read as a representation of white Australian women’s experiences of gender and race in the context of colonialism”. (Read by whom, I wonder).

Postscript. Taylor, Kay Glasson (‘David Hamline’) does get a few lines in the Oxford Companion.

The other writers Sue mentions (where I can, I list their pen names, invaluable for searching on Trove) are –

Ada Holman (1869-1949) ADB

Novelist and feminist. AKA Ada Kidgell, Marcus Malcolm, Nardoo, Myee.  “A recurring theme to her stories was tension in marriage as when a wife’s interests were suppressed or ignored, or a woman married unwillingly from economic necessity or family pressure.” Married NSW Labor politician and sometime Premier WA Holman.

Dora Wilcox (1873-1953) AustLit

Poet. NZ born and educated. A VAD (nurses’ aid) during the War.

Alice Grant Rosman (1882-1961) ADB

Published initially in Australian magazines, Bulletin, Lone Hand, Gadfly, etc. Moved to England and became a prolific and best selling author of romance fiction.

Ella McFadyen (1887-1976) People Australia

Children’s author

Vera Dwyer (1889-1967) The Australian Women’s Register, AustLit

Children’s author. Active member Fellowship of Australian Writers

Zora Cross (1890-1964) ADB

Writer of ‘sensual’ poetry, single mum, indifferent novelist, wrote about other writers.

Dulcie Deamer (1890-1972) ADB

Famous Kings Cross bohemian, actor, writer. Founding member Fellowship of Australian Writers

Nina Murdoch (1890-1976) ADB

Travel writer, reporter. Other names Madoline Brown, Manin, and as Pat founded the Argonauts on ABC radio.

Kay Glasson Taylor (1893-1998) 105! (Wiki)

AKA Daniel Hamline. Her second novel, Pick and the Duffers (1930), was called “an Australian Tom Sawyer” and was made into a movie

Helen Simpson (1897-1940) ADB

Novelist, playwright living mostly in England (married to Rolf Boldrewood’s nephew). Detective and historical fiction

Georgia Rivers (1897-1989)

Pen name of Marjorie Clark. AustLit got bolshie and wouldn’t let me see any more.

Dorothy Cottrell (1902-1957) ADB

Wheelchair-bound by polio as an infant, she and her husband were inveterate vagabonds, living in and writing about outback Australia, Dunk Island (with ‘beachcomber’ Edmund Banfield), Florida and the Carribean. Mary Gilmore wrote, “Mrs. Cottrell writes Australia as it has never been written before.”

Jessie Urquhart ()

Nothing published under that name in the years 1925-1945

see also:
Whispering Gums, 1930s, moving beyond “gumleaf” and “goanna” (here)
Whispering Gums, The novel in Australia, 1927-style, Part 1 (here)
Whispering Gums, The novel in Australia, 1927-style, Part 2 (here)

25 thoughts on “Australian Women Writers, 1930s

  1. Haha! Thanks Bill. I guessed yesterday on my re-reading of the article, that it must have been a pseudonym, but get the spelling right please Zora. And, as I emailed you, that “a” winner did not mean “the” winner. I should have read that sentence more closely first time.

    Anyhow, well sussed out! Thanks for this post-and, of course, for the links.


    • I still have a big gap in my Bulletin Prize winners 1930-34 broken only by Velia Ercole in 1932 (who I got from Lisa I think). But a search on Sydney newspapers for those years only brings up, repeatedly!, Franklin, Tennant (much surprise at women winners) and Palmer.

      i googled hamline just now, but it’s a university in Minnesota so no luck down that route.


      • And I have more leads to track down. Who are ALS Gold Medal winners
        1933 Edith Lyttleton (writing as GB Lancaster), “Pageant”; and
        1935 Winifred Burkett, “Earth’s Quality”


  2. AustLit, what can I say. I’ve said it all before.
    Just as well there are Aussie bloggers who share their information freely and without any need for registrations or other bureaucratese.


    • I wrote to AustLit but got a boilerplate reply, “money”, “subscription model” etc etc and was advised to use my local library. If it’s free there, why isn’t it free on my home PC and save me the drive (or bike ride in traffic). Rhetorical question! I’ll have to chase up ‘Georgia Rivers’ another day.


      • If you have a membership of some libraries I think you can log in at home? At least I think I have done so in the past. I think we need to understand that good information costs but I’d love them to think of a way of letting lay people like us subscribe.


      • “good information costs”: AustLit is based in the libraries of Australia’s (supposedly) taxpayer funded universities and there is no reason for its database not being freely available – except the usual neoliberal antipathy to the arts (other than big ticket opera).


  3. Oh Bill … it takes a LOT of money to curate (to use modern parlance) all that information. That’s a quality site – it takes a lot of work/time to put that together – to find the resources, to assess them, to load them in, to edit the lists, etc. If universities were better funded AustLit would, I believe from my own conversations with them, make AustLit available free. I completely understand your comment about government priorities, but given the regime we have lived under to the last three decades – I spent my career in cultural institutions providing information/collection access services to the public – I understand completely the challenges AustLit faces. My sense is they do their darnedest to make as much as they can available. My belief is that if they didn’t charge for access to the database, that database would not exist because they would not be able to pay for the staff to create, maintain and enhance it. Call me naive, perhaps, but as a retired information professional who champed at this bit all her career, I’m just saying …


    • You and I probably agree that Australia’s cultural history should be freely available as a matter of course, and that public monies should be spent at universities, museums and state libraries to achieve just that. What we are arguing about is how we should act when we are ruled by barbarians owned by plutocrats.


      • True Bill … I absolutely agree that information, like education and health services should be freely available … I really just wanted to make clear that good information does cost (which is separate from who should pay for it!!)


  4. Back before I had a computer, if I didn’t know something I assumed smarter people did. Now, when Google fails to turn up anything in a search, it makes me feel CRAZY, like I’m being gaslighted by the internet.

    I’m interested in this author who was a sensual writer and single mom. That a combination that is unusual for this generation of women. Also, the writer in the wheelchair. I know that people with disabilities are not highly published (but should be).


    • Hey Melanie, I just noticed I didn’t reply to your comment. Sorry!

      Zora Cross (“sensual”, single mum) I’ll say a bit more about in a post called ‘Exiles at Home’ in a couple of weeks (ie. Jan 12). The wheelchair lady, Dorothy Cotrell, took out US citizenship and was quite a popular writer.

      “American Ladies’ Home Journal bought the serial rights for $5000 in April 1927 [to her fictionalized life a ‘vagabond’]. It later appeared in the Sydney Mail and the English Women’s Journal. Published in Boston and London in 1929 as The Singing Gold, it achieved great success in Australia, Britain and the United States of America.”


      • I canNOT believe serialized novels are dead. They’re coming back in a weird way, in things like “text novels” that are popular in Japan (literally a novel made one text message at a time) and bloggers who create sites just to publish one chapter at a time (popular with fan fiction writers). Serialized story-driven TV is incredibly popular in the U.S., too. Shows like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Haunting of Hill House, Dead Like Me….there are so many serialized stories on TV and with the self-published crowds, but I’d love a serialized novel a la Dickens.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There are stories of Australian men in the bush waiting for the train to get in to Bourke (very remote) just for the serial in the newspapers (Robbery Under Arms, I think – a sort of Australian Zane Grey). I got into SF, via serials in the pulp magazines like Galaxy and Astounding. But the same widespread print readership probably doesn’t exist today, and anyway the same newspaper owners who gave up their ad business for free, and let Google steal their news, don’t have the brains to develop readership in ‘new’ areas.


  5. Hi Bill, I think I *might* have stumbled on another title for AWW Gen 3.
    It’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by M Barnard Eldershaw, and it appears to have an interesting history. According to the verso page, it was first published in a censored edition in 1947 (which puts it in your timeframe.) This uncensored Virago edition was published for the first time in 1983, which is outside your time frame.
    I’ve borrowed it from the library so (unless I can renew it) I’ll need to tackle it ASAP so let me know if you think it counts as AWW Gen 3. I’ve got a lot of other things I want to read at the moment, but I’ll put them aside if this one is ok to include.


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