Trailblazing Australian Woman’s Drawings Go Under the Hammer

A volume of lavishly-illustrated drawings for children by a pioneering Australian woman will be auctioned next month. Charlotte Waring arrived in Australia in 1826 at the age of 29. She’d been hired to be a governess to the children of John Macarthur’s nephew, but instead she married agriculturalist and author James Atkinson, whom she’d met on her way to the colony.

As well as writing and publishing the first Australian children’s book - A Mother’s Offering to her Children: By a Lady, Long Resident in New South Wales (1841) - an Age report describes Atkinson as “a child prodigy; a fiercely independent, well-educated woman; a single mother of four left to run one of the most important colonial properties in the Southern Highlands; a young widow who was reputedly raped by a notorious bushranger; a battered wife who fled her alcoholic second husband, though it left her penniless.”

In 1843, Charlotte illustrated a 30-page notebook for her daughter Emily’s 13th birthday with coloured drawings of the flora, fauna and indigenous people of the Southern Highlands region. That notebook has come to light after languishing in the drawer of a descendant for some 25 years, and will be auctioned on June 12 by the Aalder’s auction house in Sydney. Another of her daughters, Louisa (1834-1872), became a pioneering writer, naturalist and feminist.

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