This thesis consists of an introduction and six of my books, published between 1985 and 1999, on aspects of the history of women in nineteenth-century Australia. The books are The Governesses: Letters from the Colonies 1862-1882 (1985); A Colonial Woman: The Life and Times of Mary Braidwood Mowle 1827-1857 (1986); Pen Portraits: Women Writers and Journalists in Nineteenth Century Australia (1988); Pioneer Writer: The Life of Louisa Atkinson, Novelist, Journalist, Naturalist (1990); Tasma: The Life of Jessie Couvreur (1994); and Rosa! Rosa! A Life of Rosa Praed, Novelist and Spiritualist (1999). At the time they were published each of these books either dealt with a new subject or presented a new approach to a subject. Collectively they represent a body of work that has expanded knowledge of women's lives and writing in nineteenth-century Australia. Although not consciously planned as a sequence at the outset, these books developed as a result of the influence on my thinking of the themes that emerged in Australian social and cultural historical writing during this period. The books also represent a development in my own work from the earlier more documentary-based books on letters and diaries to the interpretive challenge of biographical writing and the weaving of private lives with public achievements. These books make up a cohesive, cumulative body of work. Individually and as a whole, they make an original contribution to knowledge of the lives and achievements of women in nineteenth-century Australia. They received critical praise at the time of publication and have led to renewed interest and further research on the subjects they cover. My own knowledge and expertise has developed as a result of researching and writing them. The Governesses was not only the first full-length study of a particular group of letters but it also documented aspects of the lives of governesses in Australia, a little researched subject to that time. A Colonial Woman, based on a previously unpublished and virtually unknown diary, pointed to the importance of 'ordinary' lives in presenting an enriched view of the past. Pen Portraits documented the early history of women journalists in Australia, a previously neglected subject. Three of the women I included in Pen Portraits, Louisa Atkinson, Tasma and Rosa Praed, the first two of whom were pioneer women journalists as well as novelists, became the subjects of my full-length biographies. In my biographies of women writers, Pioneer Writer, Tasma, and Rosa! Rosa!, I recorded and interpreted the lives of these important writers placing them in the context of Australian cultural history as women who negotiated gender barriers and recorded this world in their fiction. My books on Louisa Atkinson and Tasma were the first full-length biographies of these significant but largely forgotten nineteenth-century women writers, while my biography of Rosa Praed was the first for more than fifty years. Each introduced original research that changed perceptions of the women's lives and consequently of attitudes to their creative work. Each provided information essential for further research on their historical significance and literary achievements. Each involved extensive research that led to informed interpretation allowing insightful surmises essential to quality biography.
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