This week, Roy and I want to tell you about someone who is very important to Australian history, but who you might not know about. Most Australians seem to know who Henry Lawson is and Roy has already visited two places which inspired his poetry. You can read about them by clicking here or here. He is one of our most loved poets and story-tellers, yet how many people know of his amazing Mum, Louisa? Roy and I discovered that the anniversary of Louisa Lawson's death falls later this week, on August 12. She was an extraordinary Australian in her own right and yet beside her famous son is almost forgotten. So this week, Roy and I visit the remains of her home and find out a little about the woman who raised one of our most celebrated poets.
Louisa Lawson lived a hard life and in fact many think that the hard-working, kind, resourceful bush-woman who features in so many of Henry Lawson's poems and stories was based on her. She was born on a station in Guntawang (near Mudgee) on February 17, 1848, the second of twelve children. She was very intelligent and Mudgee National School, where she was educated, actually proposed that she become a 'pupil teacher' but her parents kept her home to look after her younger siblings. When she was 18 she married Niels Hertzberg Larsen, a Norwegian born man who called himself Peter. Soon, the pair took up 40 acres of land in Eurunderee, not far from Mudgee. Although most of the house they built is long gone the chimney remains and a picnic area, called the Henry Lawson Memorial, has been built around the old house. If you would like to visit it the Henry Lawson Memorial is about 8km north of Mudgee on Henry Lawson Drive.
Within a year of their marriage in 1866 the spelling of the name Larsen had been changed to Lawson and Henry Lawson was born. By 1877, only 10 years after marrying, Lousia had given birth to five children. Her husband, Peter, was often away and only occasionally sent money to support his family. Louisa thought of taking legal action against him, but instead earned the money she needed herself. She took up work sewing and washing, took in boarders, sold dairy products and even raised cattle. In 1883 though Louisa decided to move to Sydney and her famous son went with her. In 1887 Louisa bought the newspaper Republican. She and Henry wrote and/or edited most of its contents. Only a year later she started Dawn, a newspaper which publicised womens rights and fought for womens suffrage. It was immediately successful and when Peter Lawson died in 1888, leaving over 1000 pounds to Lousia, she poured the money into the business. By 1889 she had 10 women working for her, including as printers. She fought hard to keep her women workers, and to improve the plight of women and children.here.