Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15, 1888, amazing suffragette Louisa Lawson founded 'Dawn' magazine

Louisa Lawson's 'The Dawn', 1904
1888 Sydney, Australia: From 138 Phillip Street, Dawn, a magazine entirely produced and even printed by women, and published for women, was launched, under the editorial pen-name 'Dora Falconer'. The news magazine was boycotted after just a few months by the New South Wales Typographical Association at the behest of the Trades and Labour Council, because women were doing the typesetting.
Its publisher and editor was actually Louisa Lawson (1848 - 1920; pictured below), soon to become known throughout the colony as the prominent feminist and 'Mother of Women's Suffrage'. She was also the mother of Henry Lawson (1867 - 1922), considered by many to be the national poet of Australia.

Mrs Lawson had been inspired to do establish a journal after hearing a lecture by Susan Gale, "the sweet grey-frocked Quakeress" at the Sydney Progressive Spiritualist Lyceum at Leigh House, 223 Castlereagh Street. "The Australian Woman's Journal and mouthpiece ... [would be] the phonograph to wind out the whispers, pleadings and demands of the sisterhood." The Dawn came out at threepence a copy, with sixteen pages (later 32). The first four pages came from the April Republican, a simple matter of re-using the type from that radical Sydney journal. On page 2 it said: "Half of Australian women's lives are unhappy, but there are paths out of most labyrinths, and we will set up finger posts ... it is not a new thing to say there is no power in the world like that of women." There was a poem, 'To a Bird', by Louisa.
Louisa LawsonHer son Henry was in Sydney at the time and helped with this first and some subsequent editions; his job was to crank the old press, which he did while composing poems in his head, sometimes forgetting what he was supposed to be doing. It was on The Dawn's press that Henry's first slim little book of verse, Short Stories in Prose and Verse (1894), was (poorly) printed, with some of the printed pages, on the way to binding,  famously blowing off the back of a cart onto the newly watered street near Wynyard Station.

Soon after the publication of Issue 1, Louisa established The Dawn Club, which met at (among other venues) Quong Tart' tea rooms at 137 King St and 777 George St, one at  the Queen Victoria Markets (called the Queen Victoria Building, or QVB, from 1898), and possibly in the George St markets (aka Paddy's Markets, near Chinatown). One of Louisa's meeting places was 43 Royal Arcade (possibly another Quong Tart establishment).

The all-male New South Wales Typographical Association enacted a boycott, but Louisa Lawson managed to set by hand and publish for 17 years with the aid of other women and sometimes her famous son.
The NSWTA issued a report, which read in part:
"It is not in the interests of humanity that young girls or young women should be employed at an occupation fifty per cent of whose followers die of chest and lung diseases, and whose statistical death-rate stands fourth on the list of those whose trade or occupation causes them to be short-lived. It is hoped that the public will sympathize with your board in their efforts to put a stop to the employment of females at a trade which is most trying to the strongest male constitution."
To this, Louisa replied in Dawn:
"In the sacred name of humanity the compositors step in to save unthinking women from sacrificing themselves on the altar of this fatal occupation. It happens very conveniently, of course, that women are not wanted in the trade, because it is a nice, easy, healthy occupation, where wages are kept at a good level, and therefore well suited to the tastes of the present possessors, but whether it is suited for women or not, and whether it is just to leave women free to enter it if they can, matters not at all. That dread power, the compositor's conscience, calls upon him for pure humanity's sake to step in, and by boycott or any other means, to interpose between 'young girls' and 'young women' and the sure death that awaits them in this deadly trade of typesetting."
She also wrote, in an editorial, 'Boycotting The Dawn':
"Associated labour seems to be in its own small way just as selfish and dictatorial as associated capital. The strength which comes of union has made labour strong enough, not only to demand its rights, but strong enough also to bully what seems weak enough to quietly suffer under petty tyranny."   Read the full text
William Lane's The Boomerang stood strongly behind The Dawn:
"Owing to the survival of the slavish idea that half the race is born solely to cook for and bear children to the other half, women have been kept from taking part in the struggle for the readjustment of industrial conditions and have been the millstone on the neck of Progress. Woman's mission, as the enthusiasts call it, is very different. She is a citizen of the community first and all the time, a cook and mother afterwards. She has a right to work, and to the fruits of that work, equally with the best man living, and those who would continue her degradation by compelling her always to seek her livelihood as an accommodating housekeeper are simply pulling against the tide of Time."
The Woman's Journal (co-founded by Julia Ward Howe; editors and publishers: Henry B Blackwell and Alice Stone Blackwell – husband and daughter of Lucy Stone) wrote ... (read on at Wilson's Almanac)


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