Biography of Louisa Lawson
Louisa Lawson (17 February 1848 - 12 August 1920) was an Australian writer, publisher, suffragist, and feminist.
Louisa Lawson was born and raised in Mudgee, New South Wales. The second of 12 children, her family were typical strugglers, and like many girls at that time left school at the age of thirteen. In 1866 she married Niels Larsen (Peter Lawson). Lawson's husband was often absent gold mining or working with his father-in-law, leaving her to raise four children - Henry b 1867, Charles b 1869, Peter b 1873, Annette b 1877 (died at 8 months) and Gertrude b 1877 - on her own. In 1882 she took her children and moved to Sydney. There, Lawson managed boarding houses and saved money that she later used to purchase shares in the radical pro-federation newspaper The Republican in 1887. With her earnings and her experience from working on The Republican, Lawson was able in May 1888, to edit and publish The Dawn.
The Dawn was Australia’s first journal produced solely by women, and was published monthly and distributed throughout Australia and overseas. The Dawn had a strong feminist perspective and frequently addressed issues such as the women's right to vote and assume public office, women's education, women's economic and legal rights, domestic violence, and temperance. The Dawn was published monthly for seventeen years (1888 - 1905) and at its height employed 10 female staff. Lawson's son Henry Lawson also contributed poems and stories for the paper. The Dawn press printed Henry's first book Short Stories in Prose and Verse in 1894.
In 1889 Lawson founded The Dawn Club, which became the hub of the suffrage movement in Sydney. In 1891 the New South Wales Women's Suffrage League formed to campaign for women's suffrage, and Lawson allowed the League to use the Dawn office to print pamphlets and literature free of charge. When women were finally given the vote, in 1902 with the passing of the New South Wales Womanhood Suffrage Bill, Lawson was introduced to the members of Parliament as 'The Mother of Suffrage in New South Wales'. For the women at the time universal suffrage was not the key issue, Lawson did not criticise the government for failing to give Indigenous Australians the vote.
Lawson retired in 1905 but continued to write for Sydney magazines and published The Lonely Crossing and Other Poems, a collection of 52 poems. She died in 1920 aged 72 in Gladesville mental hospital and was buried with her parents at Rookwood cemetery.
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Louisa Lawson Poems
I am sitting by the river, And I while an hour away, Watching circles start and widen In their momentary play.
Light in Darkness
Sickness, sorrow, death, disgrace, All of these I have to face ; Pain of body, fret of mind, Poverty, with bread to find.
An Australian Song
Come gather, brave Australian sons, And join us in a song, And if you like the way it runs Then make it roll along.
The Digger's Daughter
The waratah has stained her cheek, Her lips are even brighter; Like virgin quartz without a streak Her teeth are, but far whiter.
Going round the back street. Through the silent lane, While the folks at church meet, Coming home again.
Just as the grey dawning could faintly be seen, One still summer's morning I dreamt a fair dream, I thought that my body was tenantless clay, And friends were preparing to lay it away,
Their path had divided, and never again Would merge into one as before it was twuin. The course of true love had run smoothly until It suddenly parted as strong currents will.
A Woman's Love
I cared not what they failings were They faults I would not see. I only knew I loved thee well And thought thee true to me.
Though labor may claim and cover The best of our waking hours, Whaterw we owe another, We feel that the dusk is ours;
I culled them fresh on the mountain side, Where they blossomed wild and free, They were emblems in the fair noontideFix this text Of my thoughts, dear friend, for thee.
A Birthday Wish
Oh, could I as I lift this pen Mark out thy destiny, I would have thee happy now as when Nurs'd at thy mother's knee.
To a Bird
Bright little warbler of the air. The world to thee I ween is fair, And free thy life from shade of care, So gaily dost thou sing.
I love at eve to wander Alone among the hills, While Nature and her myst'ries My soul with wonder filia.
I knew not what thy failings were, Thy faults I did not see, I only felt I loved thee well, And thou wert true to me.
An Australian Song
Come gather, brave Australian sons,
And join us in a song,
And if you like the way it runs
Then make it roll along.
For we can hold our own, we can,
In fight or friendly fray,
And conquer in the battle van
As on the fields at play.