Saturday, February 18, 2012

Louisa Lawson

Dear subscriber,

This edition is a bit late for some readers, including myself ... because I've been very busy. 

But the following is from the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days for February 17. See you tomorrow.


Louisa Lawson1848 Louisa Lawson (d. August 12, 1920), Australian feminist, inventor, poet, founder/editor of the Republican and (for 17 years) founder/publisher/editor of Dawn: A Journal for Australian Women (see Louisa Lawson on the Boycott of The Dawn); mother of Australian poet, Henry Lawson (1867 - 1922).
When female Australian British subjects won the vote with the Uniform Franchise Act (June 16, 1902), Louisa Lawson, who had had only two years of schooling, was hailed by her political sisters as "The Mother of Womanhood Suffrage". (Women in South Australia were the first in the world to win the right to vote and stand for election.)
Lawson was a poor, Mudgee-born bush battler, forced by marital breakdown, economic depression and drought to move with her four surviving children to the city. She was an idiosyncratic but indomitable woman, a prodigious worker, powerful writer and fine poet, a spiritualist, farmer, inventor, postmistress and shopkeeper.

In 1902, Australia became the first place in the world to give women the right to vote and stand for election. 's Commonwealth Franchise Act came into force, second in the world after New Zealand (more) -- which gave women the right to vote not not be elected. This gave all women the right to vote in federal elections but excluding 'aboriginal natives of Australia, Asia, Africa or the Islands of the Pacific except New Zealand' unless they already had the vote at State level (as stipulated in S 41 of the Constitution). South Australia had already won, on December 18, 1894, the first rights in the world for women to vote and stand for election – 24 years before Britain, 26 years before the USA, and 75 years before Switzerland. (South Australian women first voted on April 25, 1896.)
The women's vote was gained in Australia by the untiring efforts of some men and many women, including Maybanke Anderson, Rose Scott, Emma Miller, Vida Goldstein and Louisa Lawson (mother of Australia's national poet, Henry Lawson, and called by Rose Scott 'the Mother of Women's Suffrage').
A world chronology of women's electoral rights    The Dawn Club/Womanhood Suffrage League
Lawson & Co: associations with Henry and Louisa Lawson

"She struggled to get women the vote. Her son was Australia's most famous writer. They drove each other crazy." Novel about Henry and Louisa Lawson.
Henry Lawson at the Australian Government's About Australia category.
If any Almy reader could recommend to the editors of the
Culture Portal that Faces in the Street
and the Lawson Chronology, or any of my links about the Lawsons, stop rejecting them after all these years
I'd be amazed if they do, and grateful to you.
As you can see at Search, there are about 250 links,
and often there's a new Lawson-oriented page in
Recently updated pages
as I'm an avid Lawsonian.

Lawson spent thirty-five years of her hard life fighting for women's rights. She founded the Association of Women, and with Henry, in 1887 - '88 she published the journal, The Republican. Louisa Lawson then became founder, owner, publisher and editor of The Dawn, the new nation's foremost women's political magazine, announcing that it would battle for women's rights, and the vote. "Why should one half of the world govern the other half?" was Lawson's rallying cry.

While she supported her children in a little house at 138 Phillip Street near Sydney's docks, she had to teach herself the difficult trade of setting lead type, because of a black-ban by the New South Wales Typographical Association. The Postmaster-General's Department refused to register The Dawn for sending through the post. In 1891, Lawson helped launch (with Maybanke Anderson, Rose Scott, and Dora Montefiore) the Womanhood Suffrage League of NSW. She also founded the Dawn Club, which met in various locations in Sydney, including the tea rooms of the remarkable Quong Tart ...
Read on at the Henry and Louisa Lawson page in the Scriptorium

Australian politicians and educators, particularly conservative ones, tend to promote the myth of Henry Lawson as a homespun rural author, and consequently, although there is some truth in it, a bucolic view of Lawson is very widespread – he has been washed in antiseptic and billy tea. For example, one website says "Henry Lawson lived in the country on a selection in Sapling Gully approximately 6 kms. from Mudgee in New South Wales." In fact, from the age of 17 to his death at 55, Lawson spent almost his entire life in Sydney, a bustling world city twice as populous as San Francisco in his heyday 1890s, where he mixed with the bohemian and (often extremely) radical intellectuals and activists of the era, as did his mother for the last 37 years of her life. A large part of Henry's writing, especially his poetry, was political, swinging between what we would call today "left" and "right". Progressives and reactionaries, unsure of what to do with him, have preferred to ignore him or make him a kind of literary jackaroo. Louisa Lawson's life, too, probably because she was both poor and in many ways excessively progressive for her times, has been virtually swept from public consciousness despite her incredible achievements. I hope the Almanac's Lawsons Chronology might in some small way help to correct the historical revision of the whole 'Lawson myth', by showing these two Aussies in context.


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