My Brilliant Career and Feminism

'Do you remember Miss Spence's novel Clara Morison,' Miles Franklin asked Alice Henry in September 1930. 'I had no idea the dear old valiant was of such stature in that direction. For a literary artist to be drawn away by causes is a form of infidelity and has its punishment.' Catherine Spence had certainly been punished by the evaporation of her literary reputation by the end of the nineteenth century. In this essay I want to take a tangential approach to my central concern with the feminism of My Brilliant Career by considering, first, the question of whether Franklin herself was 'drawn away by causes' from her writing.

Franklin's biography certainly could suggest that she had been distracted from a literary career. As Susan Sheridan has observed, the young woman 'who had wanted so badly to have a "brilliant career" as a nationalist Australian writer, went on to become an expatriate professional feminist instead' (82). From 1906 until 1915 she earned her living by working for the National Women's Trade Union League of America in Chicago, and for nine years following that she worked for a philanthropic pressure group, the National Housing and Town Planning Council, in London. When she returned to Australia to stay, in 1932, she was fifty-three.3 Only then did she begin to publish at anything like the rate at which she had been writing. Such an account suggests that she lost time, the focused attention desirable for writing, and literary reputation, to the causes that she embraced.

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Published 1 October 2002 in Volume 20 No. 4. Subjects: Feminism, Miles Franklin.

Cite as: Magarey, Susan. ‘My Brilliant Career and Feminism.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 20, no. 4, 2002, doi: 10.20314/als.cdf2f2bef9.