These mosaics are to be found in the Louisa Lawson Reserve in Harnett St, Marrickville, Sydney, NSW. So who was Louisa Lawson?
Louisa Lawson was born and grew up in Mudgee, New South Wales. Her family was poor and as the eldest daughter of nine, she was forced to leave school at the age of thirteen. In 1866 Louisa married Niels Larsen (Peter Lawson); her husband was often absent leaving Louisa to raise four children on her own. In 1882 she took her children and moved to Sydney. She managed boarding houses and saved money that she used to buy a share in the radical pro-federation newspaper The Republican in 1887. With her earnings and experience from working on The Republican she was able in May 1888, to edit and publish The Dawn.
The Dawn was Australia’s first journal produced solely by women; it was published monthly and distributed throughout Australia and overseas. The Dawn had a strong feminist perspective, and discussed issues such as the women’s right to vote and assume public office, women’s education, women’s economic and legal rights, domestic violence, and temperance. The Dawn was published monthly for seventeen years (1888 – 1905) and at its height employed 10 female staff. Her son Henry Lawson also wrote poems and stories for the paper. The Dawn press printed Henry’s first book Short Stories in Prose and Verse in 1894.
In 1889 Louisa founded The Dawn Club, which became the hub of the suffrage movement in Sydney. In 1891 the New South Wales Women’s Suffrage League formed to campaign for women’s suffrage, she allowed the League to use the Dawn office to print pamphlets and literature free of charge. When it was finally achieved in 1902 with the passing of the New South Wales Womanhood Suffrage Bill, Louisa was introduced to the members of Parliament as ‘The Mother of Suffrage in New South Wales’. For the women at the time universal suffrage was not the key issue, Louisa did not criticise the government for failing to give Indigenous Australians the vote.
Louisa retired in 1905 but continued to write for Sydney magazines and published The Lonely Crossing and Other Poems, a collection of 52 poems. She died in 1920 in Gladesville mental hospital and was buried in a pauper’s grave.