Review of Louisa by Brian Matthews
When it was known that another study of Louisa Lawson was to be published, there was a small flurry of expectation, especially amongst feminist historians working in the late nineteenth century or on the suffrage movement. So far there is no authoritative published biography of any of the women leaders of this period—Vida Goldstein, Rose Scott, Maybanke Wolstenholme/Anderson. the Windeyers. Lady Mary and Margaret, the Golding sisters, Kate, Annie, and Belle, Dora Montefiore are all obvious candidates. Though work is in progress (or abeyance) on several, history, as Carmen Callil once remarked exasperatedly. takes so long to write. Louisa Lawson was the only one of those early feminists who had been the subject of a full-length book. Lorna Ollif's Louisa Lawson, subtitled significantly Henry Lawson's Crusading Mother (Adelaide: Rigby. 1978), asserting her multifarious claims to recognition beyond motherhood, as feminist, suffragist, editor, writer, inventor, agitator, and representative of the ordinary people in general and bush women in particular. Assiduous, though inclined to hagiography, its style of presentation lacked authority and solidity and made one yearn for the scholarly apparatus which transforms a circulating library life story into a research tool for other workers in the period.
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