In honour of International Women’s Day, we’re sharing the first of a series of insights into some of the amazing Australian women who have inspired us on our journey so far.
Louisa Lawson: Australian writer, agitator and feminist
When Louisa Lawson died in 1920, most newspapers described her as Henry Lawson’s mother but it would have been far more accurate to say that Henry was Louisa’s son.
Author, publisher, suffragist and feminist, Louisa was the archetype of an intelligent, compassionate and patient working woman. Accomplishing numerous ventures in her life, it was the success of her journal, The Dawn, first published in 1888, that inspires us the most, paving the way for many of the anthologies, journals and magazines we now muse over.
Louisa Lawson and the cover of the very first The Dawn journal
The Dawn was Australia’s first printed journal edited, produced and distributed solely by Louisa and her all-female team. With a vast city and country readership, The Dawn also reached the eager hands of women in England and America, who consumed advice and inspiration on household issues, fashion, parenting, health and social activities.
“There is no power in the world like that of women ... this most potent constituency we seek to represent, and for their suffrages we sue.”
A forum that showcased poetry and creative writing by fellow women, The Dawn was also the vehicle for Louisa’s drive for women’s rights. Her push for the education of women, choice of career, economic freedom, legal rights and voting equality found an audience amongst women worldwide, encouraged strength and empowerment, provided comfort and inspired change.
Louisa was a true female icon whose comment “And why shouldn’t a woman be tall and strong?” will continue to inspire us to continue the fight for women’s rights today.
Margaret Fulton OAM, culinary queen, national treasure
More than anyone else, Margaret Fulton has been credited as the woman who taught Australians how to cook. We think we’re safe in saying that nearly every Australian kitchen would have an edition of the much-loved classic, The Margaret Fulton Cookbook floating around.
Bookmarked, stained with ingredients, splashed with wine; these are the recipes that many of us were raised on, watched our parents ponder over and finally, left home with, armed with the knowledge that we could safely venture into the kitchen and whip up a healthy meal.
“Scarcely a week passes when I’m not invited to speak at a food industry or fundraising function and I always try to accept. At my age, being asked to pass on what I’ve learned is a pleasure and a privilege.”
The original ‘foodie’, Margaret Fulton forged an exciting new path as one of the first authors and journalists in the Australian cooking field. Through her Woman’s Day articles starting in the 1960’s, Margaret enticed our mothers to experiment with exotic and new dishes from international travels that they could only dream about, and in turn, introduced creativity, life and style to the everyday Australian dinner table, a tradition that continues to this day.
Jane Sutherland, Australian Impressionist
Jane Sutherland was an Australian landscape painter who was part of the pioneering plein-air movement in Australia, and a member of the Heidelberg School, a group of Melbourne painters who broke with the nineteenth-century tradition of studio art by sketching and painting directly from nature.
Jane Sutherland and painting ‘Little Gossips’ 1888
Accompanying artists such as Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Walter Withers on plein-air sketching trips to the outlying rural districts of Melbourne, Jane captured the romance of the bush through her lyrical landscapes that often included women engaged in rural activities and children at play, providing a valuable insight into the female experience of bush and bush life in the nineteenth century.⠀
“Jane captured the romance of the bush through her lyrical landscapes”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
After Autumn Rain
Jane Sutherland was also a woman of considerable conviction and sought to advance the professional standing of women artists in a generation of Australian women who chose professional careers over marriage and creating a family. Her art now resides in national institutions for continuous interpretation.
Robyn Davidson: Australian writer and survivor
Often referred to as the ‘Camel Lady’, Australian author and traveller Robyn Davidson left us in awe of her 2700km solo trek across the west of Australia in the 1970s.
The story of her journey was published in the best-selling book Tracks and the memoir sits on our bookshelves within easy reach to quote, inspire or share with a friend.
“The two important things that I learned from the trip were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision,”
From ‘Tracks’ by Robyn Davidson
The result of a free and wild childhood in rural Queensland, Robyn Davidson grew up with the feeling that she had “to do something big and challenging” with her life. Her journey with dog Diggity and four camels, from Alice Springs through some of our remotest and inhospitable deserts to the Indian Ocean, filled that void.
Manoeuvring through an array of emotions alone – happiness, sorrow, fear, passion, anger, guilt and exhaustion – Davidson’s desire to test her limits and resilience in both the wilderness and a very masculine society, has us walking barefoot, alongside her in the red sandy desert.
A scene from the motion picture of the same name starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, chronicling the author's nine-month journey on camels across the Australian desert.
She gave us a view of the outback, life on the frontier and outback culture through fellow Australian female eyes. The endless and vast space that she encountered, transformed into countless opportunities and paths for her life to take.
An inspiration for women and girls alike, Robyn Davidson encourages us to wander different paths, break the rules, remove boundaries and experience life in a free and wilder way.