Colonial Australian Women Poets

Colonial Australian Women Poets

Political Voice and Feminist Traditions

By Katie Hansord

Anthem Studies in Australian Literature and Culture

This book considers the political and feminist significance of non-canonical women poets, particularly those who were writing in newspapers and periodicals, in colonial Australia.

Hardback, 252 Pages


January 2021

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

This study examines the significant roles of five women poets, in order of chronology: Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, Mary Bailey, Caroline Leakey, Emily Manning, and Louisa Lawson. The work of these poets can outline the development of women’s poetry in Australia and internationally across the nineteenth century, and their inclusion radically alters current scholarship, rethinking the ways in which women poets, feminist politics, and the legacies of Romanticism relate to colonial poetry. Colonial poetry in Australia has generally been interpreted through a lens of oppositionality or insularity. 

These poets are examined through a transnational frame, which foregrounds challenges to women’s subjugation, and oppression relating to class, and race. Since studies of colonial Australian women writers have tended to focus on those writing novels or journals, women’s poetry of the period has received less critical attention. The highly gender-conscious writing of these poets reflects knowledgeable and innovative political dialogues that consistently demonstrate the global context of colonial women’s poetry. These poets often took what may be considered a cosmopolitan approach, which extended beyond British or emergent Australian nationalisms, in which gender was recognised as a unifying category far more than nation or Empire, extending their interests across ancient cultures, including Greek, Roman, and Indian, Italian, North American, French as well as European cultures, and sometimes incorporating discourses around slavery, indigeneity, and New- and Old-World dichotomies. 

This book is concerned with the related historical relationships of women’s political writing and gender to colonialism, literary romanticism, and emerging national identities. Themes explored in this study, demonstrating these poets’ access to a political discourse of gender and class, include abolitionism, Hellenism, eroticism and spiritualism. In prioritising the contributions of women, particularly through print culture, this study seeks to recognise colonial Australian women’s poetry as a transnational literature, politicised by its engagement with imperialist and nationalist discourses at a transnational level.


“A ground-breaking examination of five colonial Australian women writers within transnational contexts. The poems of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, Mary Bailey, Caroline Leakey, Emily Manning and Louisa Lawson are for the first time fully explored in relation to the literary, social and political movements of the nineteenth century.” —Professor Emerita Elizabeth Webby, University of Sydney

Author Information

Katie Hansord is a writer and researcher living in Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests include gender, poetry, feminism, political activism and print culture.


Anthem Studies in Australian Literature and Culture

Table of Contents

List of Figures; Foreword; Acknowledgements; Introduction: Rereading Colonial Poetry; 1. Eliza Hamilton Dunlop: Anti-Slavery, Imperial Feminism and Romanticism: 1820–40; 2. Mary Bailey: Hellenism, Bluestockings and the Colonial Times: 1840–50; 3. Caroline Leakey: The Embowered Woman and Tasmania: 1850–60; 4. Emily Manning: Spiritualism and Periodical Print Culture: 1860–80; 5. Louisa Lawson: Fin de Siècle Transnational Feminist Poetics and the Dawn: 1880–1910; Conclusion: Beyond the Dawn; Appendix: Selected Poems; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


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