When Henry Lawson put pen to paper, it is a safe bet, that ability came from the genes of his mother, Louisa Albury Lawson. She was the mother of three boys and a girl (whose twin had died at birth). Her husband Peter was often away searching for gold. In fact, when they were newly married, their first home was a tent pitched over a frame of stringybark poles in a new gold field at what would come to be known as Grenfell.
As a child Louisa had been a star pupil at Mudgee National School. She grew to be a tall, strong, fine horsewoman who could turn her hand to housework, childcare and ploughing dusty paddocks. On top of all that, she was also a fine needleworker and ran her own dressmaking business. When her two older boys, Henry and Peter, came to school age, she petitioned to open a school in the Eurunderee area. Drought, however, forced her to take the family to Sydney.
In the city, women were coming into their own. The suffragette movement was gaining traction and Louisa became one of its leaders in Australia. As a child, she'd written poems and as an adult she discovered a world of literature and publishing, buying a small printing press and publishing the journal, the Republican.
Even though her father had been illiterate, he told some great stories, a talent Louisa shared. She and Henry edited and wrote most of the Republican's copy using 'Archie Lawson' for editorial purposes. In 1888 she started Dawn, announcing that it would publicise women's wrongs, fight their battles and sue for their suffrage. She employed female printers to publish her magazine.
Louisa asked the question, 'Who ordained that men only should make the laws which both women and men must obey?' as she launched the Dawn club, a way to discuss 'every question of life, work and reform' and to gain experience in public speaking. She encouraged parents to allow their daughters to earn a living, rather than stay home doing unpaid domestic work.
In editorials she presented feminist arguments for opening the legal profession to women, appointing them as prison warders, factory inspectors and magistrates, and giving hospital appointments to female doctors. Dawn was a commercial success with an extensive country readership. There were even subscribers from overseas.
In 1900 Louisa suffered a bad accident when she fell from a tram fracturing her knee and injuring her spine. She recovered but lost some of the spark that kept Dawn vital. By1905 the magazine had closed. When women won the vote in New South Wales in 1902, she was publicly acclaimed as the originator of the suffrage campaign.
Louisa's final resting place in Rookwood cemetery. Courtesy Findagrave
Louisa died in the Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville, on 12 August 1920. She was 72 years old. She had been living alone before being admitted in 1918, her memory failing but still strong willed. She was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery.
'Louisa Lawson', The Dictionary of Sydney, State Library of NSW, accessed 26th March, 2023, https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/lawson_louisa?fbclid=IwAR3m3Zuj8jZzYpdlYKiEJV3lF-3jDOYXQ0lGI3h28dnUJ2vsiXXsehf43TA
Heather Radi, 'Lawson, Louisa (1848–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lawson-louisa-7121/text12285, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 26 March 2023.
'Louisa Lawson', Wikipedia, accessed 26 March, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisa_Lawson