by Whispering Gums
The first of a two-part series on sources, for those interested in reading and researching Australia’s 19th- and earlier 20th-century women writers, particularly those who may not have achieved prominence in their lifetimes, or whose works have been forgotten and/or overlooked.
Part One focusses on primary sources, that is, on where you can find their actual writings to read for yourselves. This will not be complete, at the time of publishing, but can be added to as further resources come to our attention.
Online and electronic sources
These digitised and electronic sources include those dedicated to specific content, those where works by Australian women writers are part of a larger whole, and those (like our own site) that have been compiled from several sources to focus on Australian women writers. All are useful, in some way, but which one you go to first can depend on what you are looking for. There can be quite a bit of overlap, particularly between sources drawing on works in the public domain (out of copyright). The list is divided into two, one mainly Australian and the other international, in alphabetical order by name of site.
- The Australian Newspaper Fiction Database: a project of To Be Continued. Contains over 21,000 works of fiction (not all Australian) located through the National Library of Australia’s Trove newspaper digitisation project. Some specific works are listed on the site, as via the database.
- Australian Women Writers. Stories from Online Archives: AWW-produced page, which contains a list of further pages organised by period, mostly decades. Click on the appropriate decade to retrieve works published in that decade. Works have been gleaned from many of the sites listed here and some value-add information is provided, particularly regarding specific access conditions.
- Project Gutenberg Australia: an Internet site, founded in 2001, which provides access to free ebooks or e-texts which are in the public domain in Australia, which means the site includes both Australian and non-australian works. Includes some excellent curated Australiana content.
- Trove. Newspapers and Gazette database: good source of stories and serialised novels published in Australian newspapers, from the beginning of newspaper publishing in Australia, in 1803. (See The Australian Fiction Newspaper Database, above)
- University of Sydney. Australian Digital Collections: a collection of Australian literary and historical texts, including fiction, poetry, plays and non-fictional works, gleaned from various sources, and by all genders. All texts are searchable, and in PDF format.
- Untapped Project: Australian project launched in 2021, which aims to make significant out-of-print Australian books – across all genres, including children’s books – accessible, in electronic form, via public libraries and for purchase from e-booksellers.
- Forgotten Books: London-based book publisher focused on restoring old books, fiction and non-fiction. Has well over 1 million books available to read online, download as ebooks, or purchase in print. Using “Advanced Search”, filtered by author, I found authors like Ada Cambridge, and Ethel Turner.
- Google Books: a multi-pronged service established by Google in 2004, that offers a range of access to books from full-view, through previews and snippets, to no view at all.
- Hathi Trust: an American site, founded in 2008, that “preserves and provides lawful access to the 17+ million digitized items”, from around the world. While anyone can search the database, the best access is through membership of a “partner institution” or as a guest via services like Google
- Internet Archive: a non-profit library of millions of free books and other online content. The Open Library is a project of the Internet Archive, and provides online digital copies, in multiple formats, of many public domain, out-of-print, and in-print books.
- Project Gutenberg: the first online provider of eBooks, PG has over 60,000 books available from around the world, focusing on older works for which U.S. copyright has expired. While there is an overlap with the the Australian sister site (PGA), there can be Australian books here that aren’t in PGA.
By this, of course, we mean published, printed editions of our writers’ works. Over the decades, many presses and imprints have published past or classic works by Australian women writers. Some of these are currently active while others have folded or been discontinued. I have included some of the latter, as their books can still be found in libraries and secondhand book shops. Many of the listed imprints were small and did not last long. The list is alphabetical by imprint/publisher.
- Australian Classics Library: small series from Sydney University Press of 12 classic Australian works, including three by women writers (Barbara Baynton, Rosa Cappiello and Henry Handel Richardson.)
- Colonial Texts Series (1988-2004?): small series imprint of the University of New South Wales Press, comprising scholarly editions of works from colonial Australia, including novels by Ada Cambridge, Tasma (Jessie Couvreur) and Catherine Martin.
- Grattan Street Press (2017- ): teaching press from the University of Melbourne, with their first collection being a Colonial Australian Popular Fiction series which included works by Ellen Davitt and Louise Mack.
- House of Books: imprint of Allen & Unwin which offers “affordable print [mostly print-on-demand] and ebook editions of the Australia’s “most significant and enduring writers and their work”, across all forms and genres (that is, fiction, non-fiction, plays and poetry).
- Imprint Classics (c. 1990s): imprint of Angus and Robertson, which published older Australian works by all genders, including by Barbara Baynton, Eleanor Dark, Katharine Susannah Prichard, and Tasma (Jessie Couvreur). Their editions included introductions by writers and critics, such as Elizabeth Webby. (See also A&R’s Australian Classics series)
- Forgotten Books: see under “Online and electronic sources”, above.
- Pandora Press: co-founded by Dale Spender. Included an Australian Women Writers Literary Heritage series.
- Penguin Australian Women’s Library (1988-1991): a small series of books published by Penguin Books, for which Dale Spender was a commissioning editor. Comprised, primarily, new editions of works by little-known Australian women writers from the past, such as Ada Cambridge, Dymphna Cusack, Mary Gaunt.
- Seal Books (1968-1970s): paperback imprint of Rigby, encompassing a wide range of Australian authors, contemporary and some past. Past women included M. Barnard Eldershaw, Dame Enid Lyons.
- Text Classics (2012- ): imprint of Text Publishing, focussing on the “lost marvels” of Australian literature, by writers of all genders. Includes introductions by writers, academics and critics. An excellent starting place for current publishing of older Australian works, particularly (but not exclusively) from the mid-twentieth century on. Still publishing.
- Virago (1973- ): founded by Carmen Callil to primarily publish women writers and redress the gender imbalance in publishing. Its list is international, but Australian authors include Marjorie Barnard, Jean Devanny, Miles Franklin, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Henry Handel Richardson, and Christina Stead.
Whispering Gums, aka Sue T, has a Bachelor of Arts, with an English Literature major, and a Graduate Diploma in Librarianship, but she spent the majority of her career as an audio-visual archivist. Taking early retirement, she engaged actively in Wikipedia, writing and editing articles about Australian women writers, before turning to litblogging in 2009. Australian women writers have been her main reading interest since the 1980s.
Wonderful.Look forward to exploring !
Thanks Patricia. So glad you think it’s worth exploring!
JSTOR and PROQUEST wonderful sources of academic articles.
Thanks Patricia … Secondary sources will be my February post!
Sorry..don’t know the difference!You might also like to contact Greg,at The Dusty Bookcase.He has created a really detailed database including Australian women writers.
Thanks Patricia. Will see if I can check him out.
FYI: Primary sources, in this case, are the actual works themselves, while secondary sources are works about them (academic articles and books, guides and directories, encyclopaedias, indexes and bibliographies etc).
Thanks.Many,many years since I received MY English degree.😉
Haha, fair enough Patricia. Know the feeling!
This is terrific: so wonderful to know how much of this is available digitally now (even though I’m at the stage where I must reduce, not increase, screen-time)!
Thanks Buried … but yes, screen time is an issue.
Fantastic post and list of possible sources!
This is an amazing post. Awesome collection of millions of sources for research in writing fiction or simply discovering a writer’s impression from someone who was present at a particular time.
Thanks Jill … we are thrilled that this post is useful for all sorts of purposes!
Thanks so much, Sue. And I’ll be very interested to see what I’ve missed among secondary sources.
Thanks Elizabeth. They one is even more of a minefield and will be very select! But we can add to it.
Thanks for this list, Sue. Another source with an international focus is Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org/). There are some novels by Australian women authors available on that site including Jeannie Gunn’s We of the Never-Never and Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career.
Thanks Tessa … I probably should have mentioned them. Meant to babe just whether they had Aus material but in Project Gutenberg Australia. Logically they shouldn’t but I haven’t looked at PG for a long time.
I was going to mention PG too as some of the Australian content there is different to what is on the Aust site. I have learnt to check both if there is a certain author I’m trying to track down.
Great resource by the way – thanks Sue.
Thanks Brona, I really didn’t think there was much overlap, but I haven’t used PG for long time. I have added it to the list as I’d intended to after Tessa’s comment, but forgot! Thanks for the reminder.
Sorry not to bring this up earlier: “Grattan Street Press is the imprint of the teaching press based in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne”. They were – I have Force and Fraud by Ellen Davitt (2017) – publishing novels that had previously only been serialized in nineteenth century newspapers
Oh yes thanks … I’ve read one of theirs too. Will add them in.
What an excellent resource!
Thanks Liz. It was good putting it together.
Possibly, too, the Michael Sharkey-edited anthology ‘Many Such as She: Victorian Australian Women Poets of World War One’ (64 page downloadable sampler at https://walleahpress.com.au/Sharkey-sampler.pdf). Cheers, Ralph
Thanks very much Ralph. I will check that out.
I have added this under secondary sources Ralph. It’s both really, but for our purposes here the fact that it contains a list of poets from that era and biographical information on each is a better fit for that post. The Macquarie anthology is there for this reason too.
There are a lot of anthologies around, and we have not included them as primary source material. Maybe down the track, though, they could be a separate post.
Many thanks, I’ll let Michael know.