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Women's History Month

Women Writers Fund

The Women Writers Fund is a pioneering new fund that seeks to redress the historical gender bias in the Victorian State Collection by acquiring works by under-represented 19th and 20th century women writers.

Works from this era often rare or expensive, with many only available through the international market. The Women Writers Fund allows the State Library to compete with private collectors and acquire works that can be made accessible to all through a public collection, giving future generations access to more diverse and representative voices from different times, cultures and disciplines.

To date, the Women Writers Fund has acquired 60 significant works by women writers but there are still hundreds to pursue.

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Patricia Karvelas on elevating women's voices

To round out Women's History Month, we're sharing a excerpt from Patricia Karvelas' powerful speech at the Library's 'International Women's Week: women's voices from the past' celebration.

A journalist and broadcaster, Patricia emphasises the importance of elevating all women's voices, and shares two novels which have had a profound impact on her.

Learn more about the Women Writers Fund and how the Library is seeking to redress the historical gender bias in the State Collection.

Émilie Du Châtelet: a pioneer in the Age of Enlightenment

Portrait of Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtele. Oil on canvas, by Maurice Quentin de la Tour. Private Collection, Henri-François de Breteuil.

Émilie Du Châtelet was 'a great man whose only fault was being a woman.'

State Library Victoria holds many key works from the Age of Enlightenment, including celebrated figures such as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot. Amongst these famous male figures sits French intellectual, physicist, author, and mathematician, Émilie du Châtelet, who has emerged as a key figure in the Enlightenment movement.

Once lost to the annals of time, the Library's Women Writers Fund recently acquired a copy of du Châtelet’s critical text Institutions de Physique. Securing this important work was made possible by the generosity of donor and supporter of the Library, Krystyna Campbell-Pretty.

Read more in our blog.

Vali Myers: Australian artist

Vali Myers (1930-2003) was known as a free-thinking artist and dancer who lived a unique bohemian life that was true to herself.

Her archive held by the Library spans her life overseas and her return to Australia.

Learn more about Vali's story in our blog Vali Myers: Australian artist.

Mrs Fanny Finch takes a stand

Market Square Castlemaine, Forest Creek, 1855, Lithograph S.T. Gill; H94.83/3

Do you know the story of Mrs Fanny Finch?

Voting today seems like an easy task, but equal rights for women was a long, hard-earned achievement. The path towards the freedoms we enjoy today was paved by many brave women who spoke their minds when it wasn't an easy thing to do, and who wouldn't take no as an answer.

Read our blog about one of them: Fanny Finch, single mother of four, and the first known woman to vote in an Australian election.

International Women's Day

To date, the Women Writers Fund has enabled the Library to purchase 60 significant texts by female authors.

Watch the video above for a look at some of the impressive titles aquired.

Lina Bryans & Melbourne’s modernist art scene

Lina Bryans with Nettie Palmer and her portrait (MS 9420)

Discover the work of artist Lina Bryans and the modernist art scene in Melbourne.

Drawing on the Lina Bryans archive, this blog illustrates some of her personal story and delves into the wider world of modern art in 20th century Melbourne.

Lina was a key figure in the art scene, both as a practising artist and as a support for others, opening up her homes to provide a welcoming place for artists and writers.

Read the blog

Elizabeth Gould (1804-1841): Artist, traveller, wife and mother

three hummingbirds

John Gould, ‘Hypuroptila buffoni’ (detail) in A monograph of the Trochilidæ, or A family of humming-birds, London, 1849–61

In our World of the book 2022 exhibition, we celebrate the life and work of Elizabeth Gould with a display including one of three rare original watercolours from the Library's collection.

Elizabeth was a gifted artist, responsible for the drawings and the lithographic plates for almost all of her husband John Gould’s early natural history publications – some 600 in total. The pair even travelled from London to Australia in 1838 to study Australian birds for their upcoming book The Birds of Australia.

Learn more about Elizabeth's story.

The Gerritsen Collection & Dr Aletta H. Jacobs: a pioneer of women’s history & visionary

Get Elected! Poster by Carol Porter, RedPlanet, 1997; H98.210/1. This work is in copyright.

There are many names in the history of feminism and women’s rights, but Dr. Aletta. H. Jacobs is little known.

The first female university student and female physician in 19th century Netherlands, she is remembered today for several other pioneering actions including the establishment of the first birth-control clinic in the world, and leading the Dutch Women’s Suffrage Association for twenty-five years.

Our particular interest, however, is in her vision and eye for the future with her building one of the earliest, broadest and most useful single sources for the study of women’s history, now known as the Gerritsen Collection of Women's History. 

Discover more in our blog.

Online collection spotlight: The Malthusian, a collection in the Women’s Studies Archive

Portrait of Annie Besant (1849-1933); Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Overpopulation was a huge social problem in 19th century Britain. Trailblazers like Annie Besant were tireless campaigners for the improvement of living conditions, birth control, and women's rights.

The Malthusian, a collection in the Women's Studies Archive, gives us a vivid lens into the living conditions of the poor and a fascinating insight into the population issues from 1879 to 1921, which laid the groundwork for social reform in the twentieth century. 

Learn more in our Online Collection Spotlight.

2002: A space oddity

Frontispiece and title page for 2002: childlife one hundred years from now, [1902]. RARES 813.52 F4242

What do you think the world will look like one hundred years from now?

For American author Laura Dayton Fessenden, the future included a woman president, perpetual peace, monkeys as servants and clothing made of paper.

With the help of the Women Writers Fund, the Library recently acquired Laura Dayton Fessenden’s most fascinating work of speculative fiction, 2002: Childlife One Hundred Years From Now. Published in 1902, the children's science fiction novel explores, in fantastical detail, a utopian and technologically savvy society one century in the future.

Learn more about this important and interesting work.