Australian Women Writers, 1930s

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

800px-Dulcie_Deamer_in_leopardskin_costume,_1923_-_Swiss_Studios_(3369819738).jpg
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)

Honour’s Mimic, Charmian Clift

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

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Princes do but play us; compared to this,/All honor’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
John Donne, ‘The Sun Rising’

Clift doesn’t say, but it is clear the setting for Honour’s Mimic (1964) is the Greek island of Kalymnos, just off the coast of Turkey, based on her and George Johnston’s year there in 1954/55, which I wrote about a couple of years ago (here).

The modern town, which was big for the Agean, had grown around the harbour, where the port had been since the beginning, facing south, away from the autumn gales. The black ships for Troy had put out from there, and the galleys for Salamis, and later Saracen pirates had sheltered between those two appalling cliffs that hurtled from air to water.

The story is that the richest (and handsomest) man on the island, Demetrius,  Anglophile, incumbent heir of the sponge merchant business Casopédes & Heirs, has married Millie, the spoilt youngest daughter of English landed gentry, and sometime model and actress, and brought her back with him to the island until his affairs are sufficiently in hand for them to be able set themselves up on an estate in the home counties.

Millie’s older brother’s wife, Kathy, an Australian, recuperating after an ‘accident’ in a speeding car, has come out to spend six months with her sister in law, to see her through her first pregnancy, leaving behind two sons (with their grandparents) and an indifferent husband. So far, so very Mills & Boon.

But after an awkward start, Clift’s knowledge of and love for the Greek islands lifts what might have been an ordinary romance out of the pack. Over and over, the intensity of her love for the islands and for the islanders shines through, but also the intensity of her feelings. Kathy takes a lover. Not Demetrius, though he was certainly willing, but Fotis, a drunken, impoverished sponge diver with a wife and many children, who has had an attack of nerves and is shunned by the other divers.

I was aware that Johnston had accused his wife of taking a lover in his fictionalised autobiography, Clean Straw for Nothing (1969) and was interested to know how autobiographical Kathy’s affair was. In fact, the lover Johnston ascribes to Clift was an American, on Hydra to which they had moved after the year on Kalymnos, and a few years later when he was away being treated for TB.

He saw it quite clearly now. They had been lovers during his enforced absence in Athens, but since his return they had imposed on themselves a scrupulous morality

Kathy takes a lover is almost the whole of the plot. Kathy propitiates Fotis’ wife; sparks jealousy in Demetrius; immerses herself in the experience of being in a Greek village where Milly tries to live above it; and screws Fotis. Here she goes to meet him

Kathy felt like laughing too, for the joy of the morning and her freedom from pain… She bought bars of chocolate and boxes of turkish delight. Then, without a glance at the warehouse of Casopédes & Heirs, she set out for Epano. A heraldry of children swept her up and up into a smell of thornbush smoke and green soap and a chorus of women’s voices. The roof-tops had picked up a random crop of grasses and rushed viridian down to the viridian harbour where the boats jogged like facetious aunts bent on nursery amusement.

Unfortunately, I think, the author is omniscient. It is true that what we know of the rest of the world is mediated through mostly English writers, and certainly what we knew of the rest of the world in the 1950s, but I would rather Clift had described Fotis, than attempted to describe how he and others were feeling.

It had never been his intention probably. Or never his conscious intention. In fact he had scarcely thought of her being a woman at all … He had the feeling that his act had been utterly sacrilegious, not because of his own appalling temerity in taking her like that: he attached infinitely more superstition to her than to the church which sheltered them.

Coincidentally, the one novel I have read by a Greek writer, Cave of Silence, was also set in the Greek islands off the coast of Turkey, and I probably learned more from Clift.

The job of a sponge diver is to live on a boat for several months at a time, and every day to plunge over the side wearing a spherical divers’ helmet, walk along the seabed fathoms down, harvesting sponges, breathing through a hose back to the boat. Walking on sand, or muddy silt, or through beds of kelp, threatened by sharks, and with the near certainty of eventual death or the loss of function in their legs, for a pay which they squandered in the first few weeks of their months ashore, and with no idea of any other employment.

A life which had continued for centuries and was now, in this generation, coming to an end as natural sponges made way for synthetic. Fotis, as I said, loses his nerve, and will not be selected for future voyages. He and many like him apply to emigrate to Australia, but Australia will not accept unskilled men with large families. In desperation Kathy writes to her father to sponsor Fotis but he … [insert Trumpisms here].

Millie and even Demetrius fade into the background as Kathy and Fotis meet in a ruined Byzantine city in the mountains behind the town, in fields and on the beach until at last they are overtaken by rumours and Kathy must leave Demetrius’ house and for a few happy weeks lives upstairs in a little tavern where Fotis can visit discretely via the back door.

Clift died by her own hand in 1969, in the lead up to the publication of Johnston’s Clean Straw for Nothing. In his later A Cartload of Clay (1971) the Johnston character (Meredith) discovers his late wife’s journal. I’ve never liked Johnston, and A Cartload of Clay ends with some disgusting stuff about women asking for rape, so I can easily imagine this – Kathy/Charmain’s affair with a ‘Greek lout’ – is the story he was hoping/fearing to find.

Sorry, I got off track. Read this book. It’s not a romance at all but a rivetting character study of an intense few months in one Australian woman’s life.

 

Charmian Clift, Honour’s Mimic, first pub. 1964. My edition Imprint 1989

see also:
Mermaid Singing & Peel Me a Lotus (here)
Kerryn Goldsworthy on Charmian Clift, and Nadia Wheatley’s biography (here)
Fotini Epanomitis, The Mule’s Foal, (here)

AWW Gen 3, Literary Prizes

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

The Pea Pickers

Last year I wrote a post about Miles Franklin winning the 1936 Prior Prize with All That Swagger (here). I tried, largely unsuccessfully, to identify the prize winners in other years, especially as Eve Langley was a joint winner with two (unknown) others in 1940 when she so desperately needed the money.

In the course of setting up my Australian Women Writers Gen 3 page this week – so that you all have no excuses for not finding a book to review for AWW Gen 3 Week 12-18 Jan, 2020 – I thought that I would revisit my attempts to identify the winners, as the Prior, and its predecessor the Bulletin, were important literary prizes for a while during the Gen 3 period, 1919-1960, providing £100 to the winner, serialisation in the Bulletin, and subsequent publication.

After faffing around for a couple of hours, searching on ‘Prior’, on individual books, and on the ALS Gold Medal, I finally did the sensible thing and searched on ‘S.H. Prior  Memorial Prize’ and came up with a Wikipedia entry named exactly that (here). So now, below, you may see all the winners for the Bulletin/Prior, the ALS Gold Medal and the Miles Franklin up to 1960 (I don’t know what prizes were available to Australian authors before 1928, none probably).

The SH Prior site referenced a couple of newspaper articles, one in 1935 setting up the prize (here) which makes no mention of the Bulletin Prize it is replacing. And one in 1937 (here) saying no prize was being awarded and that the £100 would carry forward to the following year. As it happened, no prize was awarded in 1938 either, and in 1939 Miles Franklin won with a hastily knocked up essay about the biography she was writing on Joseph Furphy (here). This probably explains why there was £300 available in 1940 the year Eve Langley won. It turns out her co-winners were Kylie Tennant for The Battlers (not the 1941 winner as is often reported) and MH Ellis for his biography of Lachlan Macquarie (which had won the previous year but been disqualified for “insufficient documentation”).

Argus and SMH (Melbourne and Sydney newspapers) Prizes were awarded in 1946 but I can’t find any other mention of them. If you can help me out I’ll add them to the listings on the AWW Gen 3 page, which in its first iteration now sits proudly in the Menu bar above.

“Argus Prize” on Trove brings up singing, painting, cycling and school speech nights but no books, not even “Dusty”. “SMH Prize” works a little better. On 28 Jan 1947 the Communists were meeting to review The Harp in the South, KSP’s The Roaring Nineties and Eleanor Dark’s The Little Company (here). They don’t make political parties like that any more! And I should have remembered Clift and Johnston won with High Valley in 1948.

Bulletin/SH Prior Prize winners (here)

Bulletin
1929 M Barnard Eldershaw, A House is Built, KS Prichard, Coonardoo
1930 Vance Palmer, The Passage
1931
1932 Velia Ercole, No Escape
1933
1934
Prior
1935 Kylie Tennant, Tiburon
1936 Miles Franklin, All That Swagger
1937 not awarded
1938  ”   ”
1939 Miles Franklin & Kate Baker, Who Was Joseph Furphy?
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
1946
SMH Prize: Ruth Park, The Harp in the South
1947
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
1943
1944
1945
1946
1947
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
1953
1954 Mary Gilmore, Fourteen Men
1955 Patrick White, The Tree of Man
1956
1957 Martin Boyd, A Difficult Young Man
1958
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

AWW Gen 3 Week

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

Grace Cossington Smith
Artist: Grace Cossington Smith

Lisa (ANZLitLovers) wrote to me this week to enquire which writers we would be covering in Gen 3 Week, so she could get started with her reading. I was on my way home from a quick trip to Melbourne (for a change!) – I left Sat lunchtime and got home Fri night – so I thought it might be simplest, and I would have the time, to knock up a post giving the dates and a simple outline.

Gen 3 – and you know these are ‘my’ generations, though HM Green is in broad agreement – covers the period from the end of WWI to the beginning of the sixties.

Gen 1, from the beginnings of white settlement to 1890, began with letter writing and memoirs and graduated to ‘colour’ novels for the home (English) market. Women’s novels, for the best part of a century dismissed as “romances” by the literary establishment, displayed both a marked spirit of independence and a growing love for the Australian landscape (here).

Gen 2, 1890-1918, covers peak Bulletin – Federation, nationalism, and the birth of the Australian Legend, the anti-hero in the Bush and at War (here). For many Australian writers Gen 2 never ended. Women writers responded by making it clear that it wasn’t just men doing it hard, and so a Pioneer Legend was born as well, and it too lives on in popular fiction, coming to the fore from time to time when politicians are not trying to distract us and glorify themselves, with pointless wars.

Gen 3, 1919-1960, 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, Bush/Pioneering from Gen 2 never really goes away.

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. Quotes are from The Literature Network (here):

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.

I have left it till this point to consult HM Green A History of Australian Literature (1960, revised 1985). His Fourth Period (and remember 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. Ahhh remember when one working man could by the honest labour of a forty hour week purchase a modest house and support a wife and children.

The bible of this period is Drusilla Modjeska’s Exiles at Home: Australian Women Writers 1925-1945 (1981) and I must review it in time for the beginning of the Week. She writes,

Within a decade the novel had broken the orientation towards poetry and short fiction that had dominated Australian literature since the 1890s… The ten years between 1917 and 1927 saw the publication of only 27 novels as against 87 volumes of verse, whereas for the years 1928-1939, there were 106 novels and only 57 volumes of verse.

Modjeska goes on to note the pre-eminence of women writers during Gen 3, and quotes Nettie Palmer (1934):

A few years ago it would have been impossible to open a bookshop in Melbourne devoted to Australian books; this has now been done.

 I’m struggling to place the women whose writing is mostly within this period in their proper strands, but I’ll have a go and hope that incites you all to argue.

Modernism

Henry Handel Richardson (for Maurice Guest)
Christina Stead, see the Christina Stead page on ANZLL (here)
Eleanor Dark, my recent review of Waterway (here)
Eve Langley, The Pea Pickers and White Topee (here)
Elizabeth Harrower and Thea Astley began writing in the 1950s but if we consider them at all in Gen 3 let’s leave them till Gen 3 (part 2)

Social Realism

Katharine Susannah Prichard (Nathan Hobby)
Jean Devanny
Cusack & James, Come in Spinner (here)
Dymphna Cusack, Jungfrau (Whispering Gums)
Florence James
Catherine Edmonds, Caddie (here)
Kylie Tennant, Ride on Stranger (here)
Ruth Park, The Drums go Bang (here)
Mena Calthorpe, The Dye House (Whispering Gums)(ANZLitLovers)

Bush/Pioneering (and others)

Nettie Palmer, as friend and critic
Hilda Esson
M Barnard Eldershaw
Marjorie Barnard
Flora Eldershaw
Mary Durack
Henrietta Drake Brockman
Ernestine Hill (an unsatisfactory biog. here)
Jean Campbell
Velia Ercole
Helen Simpson
Gwen Harwood (I have her book of letters, Blessed City)
Charmian Clift

Ok. I hope that gives you enough to get on with. Apart from Modjeska, Nettie Palmer wrote a volume of criticism that covers this period, and Dale Spender’s Writing a New World does too.

Let me know who I’ve missed and who I’ve misclassified. I’ll publish reminders closer to the date. Now start reading!