[Editor: This untitled article, being an interview with Gertrude O’Connor (née Lawson), was published in the “Woman’s World” section in The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 4 June 1924.]
[Mrs Gertrude Lawson O’Connor]
Mrs O’Connor is the only surviving daughter of a remarkable family. Her mother, Louisa Lawson, had the first women’s paper in Sydney, and was also one of the early advocates of woman suffrage. She was the first one to move to have a proper monument over Henry Kendall’s grave. Kendall’s original grave in the hollow, from which the remains were taken to the present site on the height, was given to Mrs Lawson in recognition of her work. It is her son Henry’s burial place.
Shy but confident
“I never intended becoming a writer, but through the faith some have in me my ambition is awaking,” said Mrs O’Connor very shyly. “I am quite well aware I am overshadowed by my brother’s genius and always will be, but the gift of ‘seeing story’ is strong and time will tell.”
Her chief work now is the collection of material in connection with her distinguished brother. It is on this business she is now in Melbourne.
“Henry was ten years older than myself,” continued Mrs O’Connor. “It was when I was a year old that he made his first literary effort, inspired no doubt by mother, who was concentrating at that time upon the development of her literary ability. Her health was delicate and it fell to Henry’s lot to care for me. One bleak day when I was five he left me warm and cosy in front of the fire in charge of his younger brother, while he went up the paddock to burn off. Weary of watching sparks, we set to hand cuffing as young animals always do. My chair fell and drew with it the hot water fountain, and my body received the full contents. The shock left a lifelong effect, and deadened the association centres of the brain. Sight, hearing and speech were also affected.
Worked a printing press
“In 1887 mother commenced her suffrage campaign, by starting a women’s paper, which she conducted for fifteen years. In it she published propaganda for three years before the league was formed. I worked with her, and filled all posts where actual education was not needed. I did everything but set type, and developed a sense of touch which helped me later, when I supported my family by making artificial flowers.”
Referring again to her mother (Louisa Lawson) Mrs O’Connor brought to light several interesting facts. It was Louisa Lawson who started the system of shopping by post, which is such a boon to country women. She invented the sealed tie for mail-bags, which in the old days were fastened with lock and key.
How customs change!
Mrs Lawson, Mary Gilmore’s mother, and an aunt of hers were the first three women in Sydney to go into a public restaurant without a man escort. They did it as a protest against the restrictions women were forced to endure, and knew they had made themselves liable to be arrested as bad characters by their action.
The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 4 June 1924, p. 8 (Final City edition)
cuff = to hit, especially to hit lightly with an open palm to the head (to slap); to box, to fight, to engage in fisticuffs
the league = (in the context of the women’s suffrage movement in Australia) the Womanhood Suffrage League
paddock = a field, pasture, or plot of land which is surrounded by fencing or a defined boundary
propaganda = a viewpoint, opinion, or information which is communicated to others (by various means, including public speaking, printed works, and electronic media), so as to influence the opinions or behaviour of people; to disseminate a viewpoint, so as to further the interests of one’s cause, doctrine, or ideology; advertising (commercial, political, religious, etc.); in early times, “propaganda” was a neutral term, but in modern times it usually refers to the communication of a viewpoint, opinion, or information in a manner which is biased, deliberately inaccurate (or not giving the full picture or proper context), exaggerated, false, lying (or including lies), or twisting the truth (or telling half-truths)
See: 1) “word “propaganda” (as a neutral or positive term)”, Institute of Australian Culture (list on Trove website, National Library of Australia)
2) “Propaganda”, Wikipedia
3) “Propaganda”, New World Encyclopedia
4) Bruce Lannes Smith, “propaganda”, Encyclopedia Britannica
suffrage = the right to vote in political elections and referendums; the exercising of the right to vote
[Editor: Changed “time will tell” to “time will tell.” (added a full stop).]