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Lawson was known by many for her lively, inventive mind.

Image title:
Louisa Lawson

National Library of Australia

Image ID:
neg. 5521

Louisa Lawson (1848–1920)

Feminist and republican

Lawson was a countrywoman who separated from her husband in 1883 and went to Sydney with her children. She survived by doing sewing and other people's washing. She wanted to be a writer and believed that women must have rights and opportunities so that that did not have to depend on men.

In Sydney she mixed with a small movement of radicals and republicans. Republicans did not want Australia to federate and remain within the British Empire. They wanted the new nation to be democratic, progressive and fully independent.

Lawson, with the help of her son Henry, the poet and story-writer, took over and ran the newspaper the Republican. Then, in 1888, she started her own newspaper Dawn, which spoke up for women's rights. Lawson was one of the great campaigners calling for women to get the vote.

Lawson employed only women on her paper. This upset male printers who thought women were stealing their jobs, even though Lawson was paying them the same as male workers. They harassed the women printers as they arrived for work. Their campaign to close down the paper failed.