Reprint: A Poet's Mother - Louisa Lawson

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The Sydney Bulletin contains an interesting interview with Mrs Lawson, mother of the poet Henry Lawson. Her father she stated is still alive "a good old Kentish yeoman - a big, strong, handsome man." Her mother died the other day. The following interesting sketch is a prelude to the interview: "Many gifted men have had remarkable mothers, and Henry Lawson's mother, Mrs. Peter Larsen (better known as Louisa Lawson), is in many ways a remarkable woman. Born at Guntawang, near Mudgee, N.S.W., she has suffered all her life from that craving for knowledge and culture which one sees in so many bush girls - often suppressed in deference to their not-understanding men-folk, sometimes fighting hopelessly against the round of trivialities in which custom circumscribes a woman, rarely succeeding to reach an enlightened plane of thought or performance. Louisa Lawson's mother burnt her books; her husband, a clever, capable man, frowned down her impulse to imaginative work; friends and relatives looked askance at her "queer ways." The energy of a magnificent physical constitution enabled her to struggle on. She read, and wrote, and occasionally talked. When she came to Sydney a dozen years ago, a poor little wooden cross marked the grave of poet Kendall in Waverley cemetery. Maybe the sentiment was a foolish one, for Kendall's monument is in his work, but Mrs Lawson initiated a movement which replaced the shabby little cross with a handsome monument. Then she started "The Dawn, a journal for the household, edited, printed, and published by women." The paper is living yet, and in its heyday spoke many brave and true words. Then she organised the first Woman's Suffrage League established in Sydney. Then she was chosen a member of the Sydney School of Arts committee, and for several years her strong sense was a force in its deliberations. Recently she has become a Government contractor - and inventor. For twenty-one years New South Wales mail-bags have been fastened with a strap, sealed by a device invented by Superintendent Davies. Mrs. Lawson took a contract for supplying these straps, and it struck her at once that the contrivance for fastening was slow and cumbrous. So it was, undoubtedly; the astonishing thing is, that in twenty-one years the concensus of male wisdom among postal officials should not have bettered it. In odd moments Mrs. Lawson thought out an improved buckle, had a model made from her description, and took it to the Post Office authorities, who instantly recognised its ingenuity and adopted it. It saves two-thirds of the time formerly needed to fasten the bags, and many hundreds of pounds annually in value of string and wax. Mrs. Lawson's portrait in another part of this issue barely does her justice. The expression is too hard. Despite all, Louisa Lawson is essentially a womanly woman, of a characteristically feminine type. Her nature is the groundwork of her son Henry's; but there is in him the additional element of restless male intensity.

First published in the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 27 October 1896

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 20, 2011 8:22 AM.

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