Welcome to a new year of highlighting the lives and works of early Australian women writers.

This year, our commissioning editor Bill from The Australian Legend has chosen to focus on the theme, “The Independent Woman in Australian Literature”. Whispering Gums (WG) will join me in trawling the treasures of Trove and elsewhere for interesting works which we’ll publish on alternate Wednesdays.

For our stories from the archives this year, WG and I will concentrate on works published in 1924, exactly 100 years ago, or works by authors who died that year.

sepia photo of woman with her eyes closed. She has grey hair in a bun, black blouse, necklace and brooches. An ink autograph, "Tilly Aston", appears written diagonally across the upper left corner of the photographOur first offering is a poem by Tillie Aston.

According to her entry on Colonial Australian Popular Fiction: A Digital Archive, Aston was born Matilda Ann Aston in Carisbrook, Victoria, in December 1873, and lost her sight by the age of seven:

In 1881 she met an itinerant missionary who taught her to read Braille and the following year she left home to attend a school for the blind in St Kilda. She enrolled in an Arts Degree at the University of Melbourne – becoming the first blind student in an Australian tertiary institution – but withdrew due to anxiety and lack of resources. She went on to become a teacher, eventually heading the Victorian school for the Blind and working to establish the Association for the Advancement of the Blind and the Victorian Association of Braille Writers. She wrote popular song lyrics and published five volumes of verse, two serialised novellas, an autobiography and two collections of short stories.

Aston died in November 1947 in Windsor, Victoria. Her poem, “Love Came”, was published in the collection, Singable songs (1924), and is a favourite of mine.

Love Came

Love came like a singing bird;
A sweeter song I never heard;
Within my heart an echo stirred;
But Love abode not with me.

Love came like a flash of light,
As sunbeams wing their radiant flight;
And dazzled was my inward sight,
But Love abode not with me.

Love passed me yet once again;
His voice was now a sob of pain:
“Ah! Weeping Pilgrim, here remain!”
So Love abideth with me.


Tilly Aston, “Love Came“, from the collection, Singable songs (Melbourne, Victoria: Robertson and Mullens, 1924) – link to SLVIC digital collection
Entry for Aston, Matilda Ann (1873-1947) on Colonial Australian Popular Fiction: A Digital Archive.
Portrait of Tilly Aston obtained from National Library of Australia, nla.obj-136526294-1, no known creator.


Fireworks explode in silver, pink and gold over the Sydney Harbour bridge and are reflected in the harbour.

photo credit: Rodney Weidland

Elizabeth Lhuede has a PhD in Australian Poetry from Macquarie University. In 2012, she instigated the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as a contribution to overcoming gender bias in the reviewing of works by Australian women.