1840s to 1850s

The following list provides links to texts by well-known as well as forgotten Australian women writers published in the 1840s and 1850s which are available either to be read online or for download. They are organised alphabetically by author. Links to contemporary publications digitised on TROVE have been found with the assistance of the Australian Newspaper Fiction Database (ANFD). If any are broken or incorrect, please let us know via the contact page.

Note: No guarantee can be made as to the legibility of articles in digitised newspapers on TROVE links to which are found below. Some facsimile copies may be only partially illegible; clearer copies may sometimes be found via NSW State Library eresources collection (requires log in for full online access). It is AWWs’ aim that all copies will be legible in time, but we rely on volunteers to do this work. Any effort to correct the TROVE texts would be greatly appreciated.


Meredith, Louisa Anne. nee Twamley. Shares entry in Australian Dictionary of Biography with her husband Charles. Launceston Examiner obituary (22 Oct 1895), Daily Telegraph obituary (25 Oct 1895), Illustrated Sydney mention (4 Jun 1892). Note: A curious entry mentioning Meredith’s gun, which she took on her painting excursions, appears here. (The gun itself formed part of The Private Collection of John and Robyn McCullagh 2005-2010.)
—–. Notes and Sketches of New South Wales: During a Residence in that colony from 1839 to 1844.

Vidal, Mary Theresa (1815-1873),** Tales for the Bush (1845; version transcribed by University of Sydney in 1997, available for download as a pdf).


Note: For books in the Australian Digital Collections, use the > arrows to scroll through the pages online.

Atkinson, Louisa* (1834-1872), aka “L.A.”.
—–. “A Voice from the Country: From a Correspondent(12 Dec 1859; nonfiction article)
—–. Cowanda, the Veteran’s Grant: An Australian Story, J R Clarke, Sydney 1859. A family story with an overt moral perspective, which covers both colonial Sydney urban and rural life (on the Parramatta River), as well as experience of the NSW and Victorian goldfields.
—–. Gertrude the Emigrant: A Tale of Colonial Life, J R Clarke, Sydney 1857.

Leakey, Caroline W* (1827-1881).
—–. The Broad Arrow: Being Passages from the History of Maida Gwynnham, a Lifer (1859) Predates Marcus Clarke’s His Natural Life in having a (female) convict protagonist. Reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1877.
—–. Lyra Australis: Or, Attempts to Sing in a Strange Land. (1854) Poetry. This is a web version from Australian Poetry Library online. A permanent link to a facsimile copy can’t be established here, but the book is also available for download. Search for title and look for a pdf copy with a digital.slv.vic.gov.au address. It can be opened in iBooks.

Meredith, Louisa Anne, (1812-1895) [see entry above], My Home in Tasmania, During a Residence of Nine Years (1852; nonfiction).

Parkes, Clarinda Sarah (1839-1915), married name: Clarinda Thom; published work as “Patty Parsley”, “Aletha” and “Ariel”. Australian Cultural biographical entry (which incidentally includes a note on the prescience of Pet Perennials 1).
—–. “The Dream” (1855; poem; first published in appeared in The Empire, her father Henry Parkes’ newspaper when Clarinda was 15).
—–. Pet Perennials (1859-1860), a series of short stories published in The Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope.
Pet Perennials 1:1; 1:1 (cont.); 1:2; 1:2 (cont.); 1:3; 1:3 (cont.); 1:3 (concl.): a young woman has to choose between a prosperous marriage and one of love and faith (romance, with strong Christian overtones).
Pet Perennials 2:1; 2:1 (cont.); 2:2; 2:2 (cont.); 2:2 (cont.); 2:3; 2:4: a youth wrestles with the question of Christian faith, and finds enlightenment in the example of a school companion; a mother’s prayers for her son are rewarded as the ultimate question of life after death is considered. Conservative in its views, this story may be of interest not only for its depiction of the contemporary threat of reason to Christian belief, but also, sociologically and historically, as it touches on war – the Crimean war, perhaps? – and missionary activity in the Pacific.
Pet Perennials 3:1; 3:1 (cont.); 3:2; 3:2 (cont.); 3:3; 3:3 (concl.): a plain young woman, disappointed in love, finds ultimate consolation in writing poetry.
Pet Perennials 4:1 in “Children’s Portfolio (3 Dec 1859); 4:1 (cont.); 4:2; 4:2 (cont.); 4:3: a little boy has a prescient dream of an angel bringing him a little sister and taking her back to heaven.
Pet Perennials 5 (mislabelled “4”:1 (31 Dec 1859); 5:1 (cont.); 5:2; 5:2 (cont.); 5:3: an Irish lass is shipped off to Australia, pining for her young sweetheart.
This series was continued in 1860 and further stories can be found after her entry on our 1860s page. Links found with assistance from The Australian Newspaper Fiction Database.

Spence, Catherine Helen* (1825-1910), Clara Morison : A Tale of South Australia during the Gold Fever (1854), Vol 1 and Vol 2. A romance which follows the life of an orphaned Scottish teenager, the “Clara Morison” of the title. Clara is forced by an uncaring uncle to leave her only sister and travel to South Australia with only a letter of introduction to one of her uncle’s business acquaintances who has settled in Adelaide and, now widowed, has no use for her as a companion to his wife. There she faces challenges to her status as a lady, firstly when rebuffed as a governess by people whom she might once have considered beneath her, and then being forced to “go into service” for lack of funds. The novel depicts the vulnerability of women in the new colony during a time of social upheaval which results from the discovery of gold in nearby Victoria. A minor female character enables Spence to reflect and expand on her growing ideas about colonial politics.

—–. Tender and True: a colonial tale (in 2 volumes) (1856) Also available for download on Google Play.

Vidal, Mary Theresa* (1815-1873), The Convict Laundress (1852) (short story)
____. Home Trials (1858)

Winstanley, Eliza. ADB entry; The Conversation essay.
—–. Shifting Scenes of a Theatrical Life. (1859) [available from Google Books]


>Forward to books by Australian women published in the 1860s>

* Links to the Australian Dictionary of Biography online
** Links to AustLit

Note: For purposes of this list “Australian” is defined loosely and may include authors who wrote books while living in Australia, or who wrote books set in Australia. If you find other texts for this list, or better links to any of the books listed, please let us know via the contact page.