AWW Gen 3

Australian Women Writers Gen 3 Week 12-18 Jan. 2020
Australian Women Writers Gen 3 Week, Part II, 17-23 Jan. 2021

Grace Cossington Smith
Artist: Grace Cossington Smith

Gen 1, 1788-1890 (here)
Gen 2, 1890-1918 (here)

Gen 3, 1919-1959, which covers the period from the end of WWI to the beginning of the sixties, is the story of White Australians clustered in a few cities on the arable fringes of a hostile continent. We sent out explorers – Ion Idriess, Frank Clune, Ernestine Hill – to remind us just how hostile, how other, the Dead Centre really was, and their writing was tremendously popular, but the Literary writers of this generation, and the best of them were women, began to write the stories of ordinary men and women in the cities. Aboriginal Australians had their own myth, or rather we had a myth about them, that they were out there in the desert and that they were dying out. This comes up in Idriess and Hill and most particularly of course in Daisy Bates’ The Passing of the Aborigines (1938). But for the first time Aboriginals are pictured sympathetically and at length in fiction, most notably by Eleanor Dark, KS Prichard and Xavier Herbert.

There are two strands to Gen 3, ‘Social Realism’ and ‘Modernism’, though a third strand, the Bush Realism of Gen 2, morphs into Pioneering to accommodate women and families.

Social Realism: Realism began in France in the middle of the C19th as a reaction to Romanticism. The idea was to picture life ‘warts and all’, eg. Zola. This led to Social Realism, in the first half of the C20th, which depicts the harshness of working life in order to critique the forces giving rise to it, “Social Realism aims to reveal tensions between an oppressive, hegemonic force, and its victims” (wiki). By contrast Socialist Realism, which was the mandated style for Communists around the same time, idealizes the (post-Revolution) Worker.

Modernism: The Modernist Period in English Literature occupied the years from shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century through roughly 1965. In broad terms, the period was marked by sudden and unexpected breaks with traditional ways of viewing and interacting with the world. Experimentation and individualism became virtues, where in the past they were often heartily discouraged. Modernism was set in motion, in one sense, through a series of cultural shocks. The first of these great shocks was the Great War … [A] central preoccupation of Modernism is with the inner self and consciousness. In contrast to the Romantic world view, the Modernist cares rather little for Nature, Being, or the overarching structures of history. Instead of progress and growth, the Modernist intelligentsia sees decay and a growing alienation of the individual. The machinery of modern society is perceived as impersonal, capitalist, and antagonistic to the artistic impulse. (The Literature Network)

HM Green’s Fourth Period (he treats my Gen 1 as two Periods), 1923-1950, is titled ‘World Consciousness and Disillusion’. He writes that notwithstanding the Depression and WWII this “current” period – current when he was writing – is marked by the gradual accumulation of individual wealth. (HM Green, A History of Australian Literature (1960, revised 1985))

Transition to Gen 4. Up until the 1950s Australia’s eastern seaboard, where 80% of us live, was White. White, white, white. And not just white, but totally, homogeneously Brit. “Home” was England and the only ethnic diversity came from Irish Catholics. Victoria’s remnant Aboriginal population was hidden away at Lake Tyers and it was the same, to a large extent, in the other eastern states until you got into the outback. The writing of the 1940s and 50s represented that and continued on the stories of white middle-class privilege, and of working class hardship and housing shortage ongoing from the Depression years, almost without a break.

But even before the War, migration had commenced with Eastern European Jews, then came assisted migrants in their thousands from the UK, Italy and Greece, so by the 1960s we were becoming a totally different place. Add in the sexual revolution which arose out of/coincided with the Pill, the popular music revolution, the baby boom, the anti-war movement, and you can see why this must be my transition point from Gen 3 to Gen 4.

This, as always, leaves two important writers on the cusp, Elizabeth Harrower (1928-2020) and Thea Astley (1925-2004) who published their first novels in respectively 1957 and 1958. I’m going to make a captain’s call and put Harrower in Gen 3 and Astley in Gen 4. My reasoning is that Harrower wrote mostly in the 1950s, she was a modernist, after Eleanor Dark and Patrick White say, and her subject was the monocultural middle class suburbs of Sydney. Astley on the other hand, wrote prolifically throughout the second half of the C20th and her theme was much more the clash of cultures.

Below I have listed firstly, all the women and their works – poetry, novels, letters, journals – for which I have reviews (reviewer in brackets; wadh is me), and essays and books about them; and secondly reference works and essays about the period in general. I’ve allocated writers to strands, but of course none of them is strictly one thing or t’other and Prichard, Langley, and Tennant in particular were strongly influenced by the Bush Realism of Gen 2.

Bill Holloway (Most recent update 30 Jan., 2021)


Zora Cross (1890-1964) ADB

Songs of Love and Life (1917)

Cathy Perkins, The Shelf Life of Zora Cross (2019) (The Resident Judge)
see also: Australian Women Writers 1930s (Whispering Gums) (wadh)

Lesbia Harford (1891-1927) ADB, Wiki

Collected Poems, 1908-1927 (Slant Postscripts)

Christina Stead (1902-1983) ADB

The Salzburg Tales, 1934 (wadh)
Seven Poor Men of Sydney, 1934
The Beauties and Furies, 1936
House of All Nations, 1938
The Man Who Loved Children, 1940
For Love Alone, 1944
Letty Fox Her Luck, 1946 (wadh)
A Little Tea, A Little Chat, 1948
The People with the Dogs, 1952
Dark Places of the Heart, 1966 (pub. in England as Cotters’ England, 1967) (wadh)
The Puzzleheaded Girl, 1967
The Little Hotel, 1973 (wadh)
Miss Herbert (The Suburban Wife), 1976 (wadh)
Ocean of Story, 1985
I’m Dying Laughing, 1986

more reviews, Christina Stead page (ANZLL)

Susan Lever, Christina Stead’s Workshop in the Novel: How to Write a “Novel of Strife” (wadh)
Chris Williams, Christina Stead: A Life of Letters, 1989 (wadh)

Eleanor Dark (1901-1985) ADB

Juvenilia (1916-19) (Whispering Gums)
Slow Dawning (1932) (Debbie Robson)
Prelude to Christopher
Return to Coolami (1936)
Sun Across the Sky (1937)
Waterway (1938) (wadh)
The Little Company (1945) (ANZLitLovers)(Buried in Print)
The Timeless Land (1941) (Neil@Kallaroo)
Storm of Time (1948)
No Barrier (1953)
Lantana Lane (1959) (ANZLitLovers)(Book Around the Corner)(Grab the Lapels)

Meg Brayshaw, The Quiet Brilliance of Eleanor Dark here
Debbie Robson, Waiting for Eleanor Dark, here

Eve Langley (1904-1974) ADB

The Pea Pickers (1942) (wadh) (Whispering Gums) (This Reading Life)
White Topee (1954) (wadh)
Wilde Eve (1999) (wadh)

Jessica Anderson (1916-2010) Wiki

Tirra Lirra by the River (1978) (wadh)

Elizabeth Harrower (1928-2020 ) Wiki

The Watchtower (1966) (Whispering Gums)
In Certain Circles (2014) (Whispering Gums)
A Few Days in the Country and other stories (2015) (Whispering Gums)

Social Realism

Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969) ADB (Nathan Hobby)

The Pioneers (1915) (Nathan Hobby) (Whispering Gums) (ANZLitLovers)(wadh)
Windlestraws (1916) (Nathan Hobby)
Black Opal (1921) (Nathan Hobby) (ANZLitLovers)
Working Bullocks (1926) (Nathan Hobby)
The Wild Oats of Han (1928) (Nathan Hobby) (This Reading Life)
Coonardoo (1929) (Nathan Hobby) (ANZLitLovers)
Haxby’s Circus (1930) (Nathan Hobby) (ANZLitLovers)
Intimate Strangers (1939) (Nathan Hobby)
Moon of Desire (1941)
The Roaring Nineties (1946) (Nathan Hobby)
Golden Miles (1948) (Nathan Hobby)
Winged Seeds (1950) (Nathan Hobby)
Subtle Flame (1967) (Nathan Hobby)
Kiss on the Lips and Other Stories (1932) (Nathan Hobby)
Potch and Colour (1944) (Nathan Hobby)
N’Goola and other Stories (1959) (Nathan Hobby)
Child of the Hurricane (1964), Autobiog. (Nathan Hobby)

Ric Throssell, Wild Weeds and Windflowers (1975), Biog. (Nathan Hobby)
Nathan Hobby, Katharine Susannah Prichard in the 1940s and 50s, here

Jean Devanny (1894-1962) ADB

The Butcher Shop (1926)
Sugar Heaven (1936) (ANZLitLovers)
full bibliography (here)

Catherine Edmonds (1900-1960) ADB

Caddie (1953) (wadh)

Cusack & James

Four Winds and a Family (1946)
Come in Spinner (1951/1988) (wadh)

Dymphna Cusack (1902-1981) ADB

Jungfrau (1936) (Whispering Gums) (wadh)
Say No to Death (1951) (wadh) (The Resident Judge)
A Window in the Dark, memoir (1991) (Whispering Gums)
full bibliography (here)

Florence James (1902-1993) Wiki

Dorothy Cottrell (1902-1957) ADB

The Singing Gold (1929)
The Mysterious Box, short story Jessica White

Velia Ercole (1903-1978) AustLit Wrote also as Velia Gregory, Margaret Gregory

No Escape (1932) (Monash Uni)
Dark Windows (1934)

Mena Calthorpe (1905-1996) Wiki

The Dye House (1961) (Whispering Gums) (ANZLitLovers) (Brona’s Books)
The Defectors (1969)
The Plain of Ala (1989)

Kylie Tennant (1912-1988) ADB

Tiburon (1935) (Trove)
The Battlers
(1940) (Trove)
Ride on Stranger
(1943) (wadh) (ANZLitLovers)
The Honey Flow (1956) (wadh) (ANZLitLovers)
Tell Morning This
(1967) (wadh)
full bibliography (here)

Ruth Park (1917-2010) Wiki

The Harp in the South (1948) (ANZLitLovers)
Swords and Crowns and Rings
(1977) (Whispering Gums) (ANZLitLovers)
Missus (1985) (Whispering Gums)
The Drums Go Bang (1956) (wadh) (Whispering Gums)
A Fence Around the Cuckoo (1992) (Travellin’ Penguin)
Fishing in the Styx (1993), autobiog. (ANZLitLovers)
full bibliography (here)

Dorothy Hewett (1923-2002) Wiki

Bobbin Up (1959) (Reading Matters)
The Toucher (1993)
Neap Tide (1999)

Bush/Pioneering (and others)

Daisy Bates (1859-1951) ADB (wadh)

The Passing of the Aborigines (1938) (wadh)

Mary Louisa (Mollie) Skinner (1876-1955) ADB

Letters of a V.A.D. (1918) here
The Boy in the Bush, with DH Lawrence (1924) (wadh)
The Hand, short story (1924) (Whispering Gums)

The Australian Legend, Writing The Boy in the Bush, here
Whispering Gums, Mollie Skinner and DH Lawrence, here

Miles Franklin (1879-1954)

Miles Franklin page (theaustralianlegend)

Olive Pink (1884-1975) ADB

Julie Marcus, The Indomitable Miss Pink (2005) (The Resident Judge)

Nettie Palmer (1885-1964) ADB Non-fiction-

Henry Bournes Higgins (1931)
Talking It Over (1932)
Memoirs of Alice Henry (1944) edited
Fourteen Years : Extracts From a Private Journal 1925-1939 (1948)
Henry Handel Richardson : A Study (1950)
The Dandenongs (1952)
Henry Lawson (1952)
Bernard O’Dowd (1954) with Victor Kennedy
Letters, Vivian Smith ed. (1977)
Journal, Vivian Smith ed. (1988)

Myrtle Rose White (1888-1961) ADB

No Roads Go By (1932) (wadh)

Angela Thirkell (1890-1961) Wiki

Trooper to the Southern Cross (1934) (Whispering Gums) (wadh)

Myra Morris (1893-1966) ADB

Briget Magner, Emily Potter, A talented daughter of the Mallee (ALS Journal)

Joan Lindsay (1896-1984) Wiki

Through Darkest Pondelayo (1936)
Time Without Clocks (1962) memoir (ANZLitLovers)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967)

Helen Simpson (1897-1940) ADB

full bibliography (here)

Whispering Gums, Forgotten Writers 1, Helen Simpson (here)

M Barnard Eldershaw Wiki

A House is Built (1929)
full bibliography (here)

Marjorie Barnard (1897-1987) ADB

The Persimmon Tree, and Other Stories (1943)
A History of Australia (1962)
Miles Franklin: A Biography (1967)

Flora Eldershaw (1897-1956) ADB Non-fiction-

Contemporary Australian Women Writers (1931)
Australian Literary Society Medallists (1935)
Australian Writers’ Annual (1936, ed.)
The Peaceful Army: A Memorial to the Pioneer Women of Australia, 1788-1938 (1938)

Jean Curlewis (1898-1930) Wiki (Daughter of Ethel Turner)

full bibliography (here)
Maurice Saxby, Ethel’s Daughter: The Writings of Jean Curlewis here

Ernestine Hill (1899-1972) ADB

The Great Australian Loneliness (1937) (wadh/AWWC)
Water into Gold (1937)
My Love Must Wait (1941) (This Reading Life)
Australia: Land of Contrasts (1943)
Flying Doctor Calling (1947)
The Territory (1951)
Kabbarli: A Personal Memoir of Daisy Bates (1973)

Marianne van Velzen, Call of the Outback (2016) biog.(wadh)

Henrietta Drake Brockman (1901-1968) ADB

full bibliography (here)

Jean Campbell (1901-1984) ADB

Dora Birtles (1903-1992) ADB

North-West by North (1935)
The Overlanders (1946) (Luvvie’s Musings)

Mary Durack (1913-1994) Wiki

Kings in Grass Castles (1959)
Robyn Greaves, Mary Durack (1913 1994) A Neglected Voice here
Brensa Niall, True North: The Story of Mary & Elizabeth Durack (Whispering Gums)

Elizabeth O’Conner (1913-2000) Wiki

The Irishman (1960) (ANZLitLovers)

Nene Gare (1919-1994) Wiki

The Fringe Dwellers (1961) (wadh) (ANZLitLovers)

Irene Cheyne Children’s author?

Annette of River Bend, also Annette & co.
The Golden Cauliflower

Gwen Harwood (1920-1995) Wiki

Blessed City (1990)

Charmian Clift (1923-1969) ADB

Walk to the Paradise Gardens (1960)
Honour’s Mimic (1964) (wadh)
Mermaid Singing (1956) memoir (wadh)
Peel Me a Lotus (1959) memoir (wadh)
Images in Aspic, Selected Essays (1965)
Trouble in Lotus Land: Essays 1964-67 (1990) (ANZLitLovers)
(with George Johnston) –
High Valley (1949)
The Big Chariot (1953)
The Sponge Divers (1955)

Whispering Gums, Introducing Charmian Clift (here)

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

Drusilla Modjeska, Exiles at Home: Australian Women Writers 1925-1945 (1981) (wadh)
Dale Spender, Writing a New World: Two Centuries of Australian Women Writers, Pandora, London, 1988 (wadh)
Ann Vickery & Maryanne Dever, Australian Women Writers 1900-1950  (Download pdf)

Related Posts

Forgotten Australian women novelists, Debbie Robson
Ventured North by Train and Truck, wadh
Prior Prize Winners, All That Swagger, wadh
AWW Gen 3 Literary Prizes, wadh
AWW Gen 3 Summary, wadh
Australian Women Writers, 1930s, Whispering Gums
Australian Women Writers, 1930s, wadh
1930s, Moving beyond “gumleaf and goanna”, Whispering Gums
The novel in Australia, 1927-style, Part 1,  Whispering Gums
The novel in Australia, 1927-style, Part 2, Whispering Gums
The Future of Australian Literature (Vance Palmer, 1935), Whispering Gums
Monday Musings: Realism and Modernism, Whispering Gums
Monday Musings: Contemporary Responses to Coonardoo, Whispering Gums
Late Modernity: Introduction to the AWW Gen 3 Week, Part II, wadh
Invasion Day, 2021: AWW Gen 3 Week, Part II Summary, wadh
Monday Musings: FAW Activities (1), Whispering Gums

Bulletin/SH Prior Prize winners (here)

M Barnard Eldershaw, A House is Built, KS Prichard, Coonardoo
1929 Vance Palmer, The Passage
1932 Velia Ercole, No Escape (Trove)
Kylie Tennant, Tiburon
1936 Miles Franklin, All That Swagger
1937 not awarded
1938  ”   “
1939 Miles Franklin & Kate Baker, Who Was Joseph Furphy? (wadh)
1940 Eve Langley, The Pea Pickers, Kylie Tennant, The Battlers, MH Ellis, Lachlan Macquarie (biog.)
1941 not awarded
1942 Gavin S. Casey, It’s Harder for Girls
1943 not awarded
1944  ”   “
1945 Douglas Stewart, The Fire on the Snow
1946 Brian James, Cookabundy Bridge
1946 Argus Prize: Frank Dalby Davidson, Dusty
SMH Prize: Ruth Park, The Harp in the South
1948 G Johnston & C Clift, High Valley

ALS Gold Medal winners (here) (ANZLL)

1928 Martin Boyd, The Montforts
1929 Henry Handel Richardson, Ultima Thule
1930 Vance Palmer, The Passage
1931 Frank Dalby Davidson, Man Shy
1932 Leonard Mann, Flesh in Armour
1933 Edith Lyttleton (writing as GB Lancaster), Pageant
1934 Eleanor Dark, Prelude to Christopher
1935 Winifred Burkett, Earth’s Quality
1936 Eleanor Dark, Return to Coolami
1937 Seaforth Mackenzie, The Young Desire It
1938 RD Fitzgerald, Moonlight Acre
1939 Xavier Herbert, Capricornia
1940 William Baylebridge, This Vital Flesh
1941 Patrick White, Happy Valley
1942 Kylie Tennant, The Battlers
1948 Herz Bergner, Between Sky and Sea
1949 Percival Serle, Dictionary of Australian Biography
1950 Jon Cleary, Just Let Me Be
1951 Rex Ingamells, The Great South Land: An Epic Poem
1952 Tom Hungerford, The Ridge and the River
1954 Mary Gilmore, Fourteen Men
1955 Patrick White, The Tree of Man
1957 Martin Boyd, A Difficult Young Man
1959 Randolph Stow, To the Islands

Mile Franklin Award Winners (here)

1957 Patrick White, Voss
1958 Randolph Stow, To the Islands
1959 Vance Palmer, The Big Fellow
1960 Elizabeth O’Conner, The Irishman