AWW Gen 1

Australian Women Writers, Gen 1

The first generation of Australian Literature is defined here as those writers who came before the 1890s and the Sydney Bulletin ‘Bush Realism’ school, although many of them continued writing into the first part of the 20th century. This corresponds pretty well with HM Green’s First Period, ‘Conflict’ 1789-1850 and Second Period ‘Consolidation’, 1850-1890, though on reflection I think he was right to treat then separately and I was wrong to conflate them. If you look closely at the list below you will see that the writing of novels began to flourish only after 1850, and prior to that women’s (and men’s) writing consisted mostly of letters and journals.

Men – diarist Watkin Tench and novelists James Tucker (Ralph Rashleigh), Marcus Clarke (For the Term of his Natural Life), Rolf Boldrewood (Robbery Under Arms) and Henry Kingsley (The Recollections of Geoffry Hamlyn) – continue to be seen, and endlessly republished, as the face of early Aust.Lit. but in fact the women of the period were both more popular and more prolific.

Dale Spender writes that Ada Cambridge, Tasma (Jessie Couvreur) and Rosa Praed “became best-selling novelists in Australia, Britain and the United States and, were the image of Australia to be drawn from their writings rather than those of a few men, the representation of Australia, past and present, would be very different.”

My review of Spender’s Writing a New World: Two Centuries of Australian Women Writers (1988) provides a more detailed overview of the period (here).

As best as I can determine, republished women’s fiction from this period numbers fewer than 20 works (and Praed alone wrote 40) though a great many more have been scanned and are available to read and/or buy online.

Below I have listed firstly, all the women (in birth date order) and their works – poetry, novels, letters, journals – which have been republished or for which I have reviews (reviewer’s blog in brackets; wadh is me), and essays and books about them; and secondly reference works and essays about the period in general.

Bill Holloway (Most recent update 17 Mar., 2018)


Margaret Catchpole (1762-1819) ADB

Letters (1801-1811) Online here

Richard Cobbold, The History of Margaret Catchpole: A Suffolk Girl (1845) here

Elizabeth Macarthur (1766-1850) ADB

Letters (1789-1849) (Michelle Scott Tucker)

Hughes, J (ed), The Journal and Letters of Elizabeth Macarthur 1789-1798, Historic Houses Trust NSW, Sydney, 1984.
Macarthur Onslow, S, The Macarthurs of Camden, Rigby, Adelaide, 1973.
Michelle Scott Tucker, Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World, Text, Melbourne, 2018 (ANZ LitLovers) (wadh)

Anne Drysdale (1792-1853) and Caroline Elizabeth Newcomb (1812-1874) ADB

Diaries (Michelle Scott Tucker)

Roberts, B (ed), Miss D & Miss N: an extraordinary partnership, Australian Scholarly Publishing with the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, 2009.

Georgiana McCrae (1804-1890) ADB

Georgiana’s Journal (1934), William Brooks, Sydney, 1978 (The Resident Judge of Port Phillip)

Brenda Niall, Georgiana, Miegunyah Press, 1994 (ANZLitLovers)

Georgiana Molloy (1805-1843) ADB, website

Diary here
Letters (1837-1843) here (Jessica White)

Bernice Barry, Georgiana Molloy: The Mind that Shines, Redgate, 2015 (Adventures in Biography, ANZLitLovers)
Jessica White, The Native Seeds of Augusta here

Louisa Meredith (1812-1895) ADB

My Home in Tasmania during a Residence of Nine Years (1852) here

Vivienne Rae Ellis, Louisa Anne Meredith: A Tigress in Exile, Blubber Head Press, Tas., 1979

Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) Wiki

Force and Fraud: A Tale of the Bush (1865), Grattan Street Publishing, Melbourne, 2017 here (wadh)

Annie Baxter (1816-1905) ADB

Journal of Annie Baxter Dawbin, Lucy Frost ed., UQP, Brisbane, 1998

Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910) ADB, UniMelb

Clara Morrison (1854), Seal Books, 1971 here
Mr Hogarth’s Will (1865), Penguin, 1988 here (ANZLitLovers)
The Author’s Daughter (1867) here
A Week in the Future (1889), Hale & Ironmonger, 1988 (wadh)

Susan Magarey, Unbridling the Tongues of Women (biography) here (The Resident Judge of Port Phillip)
Susan Magarey ed. (with Barbara Wall, Mary Lyons, Maryan Beams), Ever Yours, C.H. Spence (autobiography, diary, letters) here (The Resident Judge of Port Phillip)

Rachel Henning (1826-1914) ADB

Letters (1853-1882), Bulletin, 1951-2, Angus & Robertson, 1953, 1986. here, here

Illawarra Historical Soc., The Letters of Rachel Henning: Have we been conned? here

Annabella Boswell (1826-1912) ADB

Recollections of Some Australian Blacks (1890)
Some Recollections of My Early Days (1908), repub. as Annabella Boswell’s Journal, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1965, 1981, 1993 (wadh)
Further Recollections of My Early Days in Australia (1911), repub. as Annabella Boswell’s Other Journal, Mulini Press, Canberra, 1992

Maud Jeanne Franc (Matilda Jane Evans) (1827-1886) ADB

Marian, or The Light of Some One’s Home (1859)

Barbara Wall, Our Own Matilda, Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 1994
Nathan Hobby, Australia’s Greatest Temperance Novelist here

Mary Braidwood Mowle (1827-1857) ADB

Diaries (Michelle Scott Tucker)

Patricia Clarke, A Colonial Woman: The Life and Times of Mary Braidwood Mowle 1827-1857 (Syd, 1986)

Ellen Clacy (1830-1901) Wiki

A Lady’s Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852–1853 (1853) here (ANZLitLovers)
Lights and Shadows of Australian Life (1854), British Library, 2011 here

Margaret Seymour (b. 1830 approx) of Alpha Station, Qld

Journalism (ANZLitLovers)

Mary Anne Broome (1831-1911) ADB

Letters to Guy (1885), OUP, Melbourne, 1963

Louisa Atkinson (1834-1872) ADB

Gertrude the Emigrant: A Tale of Colonial Life by an Australian Lady (1857), Canberra School of English & Australian Scholarly Editions Centre reprint, 1998
A Voice from the Country, Column in Sydney Morning Herald (1860-1870?) (Whispering Gums)

Penny Olsen, The Road to Louisa Atkinson’s Nature Notes, NLA, 2015 here
Whispering Gums, Louisa Atkinson and Indigenous Australians here

Ada Cambridge (1844-1926) ADBwebsite

The Three Miss Kings (1883), Virago, Modern Classics #244 (wadh) (Books Around the Corner)
A Marked Man, Some Episodes in his Life (1891), Pandora, 1987 (Narelle Ontivero)
Thirty Years in Australia (1903) here (ANZLitLovers)
Sisters (1904), Penguin, 1989 (Brona’s Books)

Poems, Australian Poetry Library here
Morgan Burgess, Ada Cambridge: colonial writer and social critic here

Tasma (Jessie Couvreur) (1848-1894) ADB, UniMelb

Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill (1889), Pandora, 1987 (Whispering Gums)
A Sydney Sovereign, short stories, Imprint, 1993 (wadh)

Narelle Ontivero, “As Nature Bade Her”: Sensuality in Tasma’s Bush Stories here
Whispering Gums, Tasma (aka Jessie Couvreur) here
Whispering Gums, Tasma’s Country Town (excerpt from Uncle Piper) here

Catherine Martin (1848-1937) ADB

An Australian Girl (1894), Pandora, 1987 (wadh)
The Incredible Journey (1923), Pandora, 1987

Poems, Australian Poetry Library here

Rosa Praed (1851-1935) ADB, UniMelb

The Bond of Wedlock (1887), Pandora, 1987 (wadh)
The Soul of Countess Adrian (1888) here (Jessica White)
The Romance of a Station (1889) here
Outlaw and Lawmaker (1893), Pandora, 1987
Lady Bridget in the Never-Never Land (1915), Pandora, 1987 here (wadh)

Chris Tiffin, Rosa Praed, Victorian Fiction Research Guides here
Jessica White, Stargazing with Rosa Praed here
Patricia Clarke, A Paradox of Exile: Rosa Praed’s Lifelines to her Australian Past. In Haebich and Offord (eds), Landscapes of Exile: Once Perilous, Now Safe here
Len Platt, Race and Romance in the Australian Novels of Rosa Praed here

Mary Gaunt (1861-1942) ADB, UniMelb

Journalism (ANZLitLovers)
Kirkham’s Find (1897), Penguin, 1988 (wadh)

Bronwyn Hickman, Mary Gaunt: Independent Colonial Woman, 2015 here (ANZLitLovers)


The Australian Women Writers Challenge have put up an excellent site (here) listing all books by Australian women, available online, sorted by decade, up to the 1930s.


Reference works and essays

Dale Spender, Writing a New World: Two Centuries of Australian Women Writers, Pandora, London, 1988 (wadh)

Patricia Clarke & Dale Spender, Life Lines: Australian women’s letters and diaries 1788-1840, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1992.

HM Green, A History of Australian Literature, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1961

Debra Adelaide, A bright and fiery troop: Australian women writers of the nineteenth century (1988)

Debra Adelaide, Australian women writers: a bibliographic guide (1988)

Julieanne Lamond, Stella vs Miles: Women Writers and Literary Value in Australia, Meanjin, 2011 here

WAD Holloway, The Independent Woman in Australian Literature here

Elizabeth Webby, 2011 John Alexander Ferguson Memorial Lecture, “Reading in colonial Australia”,  Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society (vol. 97, pt. 2) Dec 2011 here (Whispering Gums)


Related posts

Australian Women Writers Gen 1 Week Contributors, 21 Jan 2018 (wadh)
Australian Women Writers Gen 1 Week, 14 Nov 2017 (wadh)
Early Australian Women Writers (1), 28 Feb 2017 (wadh)
Women Academics on Colonial Women Writers, 5 Feb 2018 (Whispering Gums)
Reading Aloud in Colonial Australia, 29 Jan 2018 (Whispering Gums)
Literary Culture in Colonial Australia, 22 Jan 2018 (Whispering Gums)


Men from the same period

Watkin Tench, 1788, first pub. 1789,1793. This edition: Tim Flannery ed., Text, Melbourne, 1996 (wadh 1, wadh 2)

James Tucker, Ralph Rashleigh, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1952 (Colin Roderick, ed.) (wadh)

John Lang, The Forger’s Wife, Grattan Street Press, Melbourne, 2017 (Orig. serialised in 1853) (ANZLitLovers) (Whispering Gums)

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