Who is she?
Stella Miles Franklin was an Australian writer and feminist, most famous for her novel, My Brilliant Career. The leading Australian award for women writers, the Stella Prize, is named in her honour, as well as the country’s leading literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award.
Stella was raised in a life of poverty and was greatly affected by the drudgery and endless childbearing that was her mother’s experience of marriage. She started writing My Brilliant Career at the age of 16, and through the help of Henry Lawson, she gained an agent and had the novel published. It was released to criticism and outrage for its depiction of marriage and the church. The story focused on the rebellious Sybylla Melvyn, who resists the limits placed on women.
Stella was taken under the wing of NSW feminist Rose Scott and influenced to influential feminists of the time, who urged her to travel to the United States. It was there she suffered a nervous breakdown. After her recovery, Stella she edited various union magazines, and when the war broke out, she travelled to Europe and worked in Macedonia as a cook.
She returned to Australia to care for her ailing mother in 1932, and during WW2 worked as a broadcaster for the ABC. She lived frugally, saving her money to found a prize to encourage Australian authors. That award, the Miles Franklin Award, was first won by Patrick White’s Voss.
Why should we thank her?
Stella’s legacy on Australian literature is enormous – she was an influential writer, who no doubt encouraged many women writers in her wake. She also created a memorable character in Sybylla, who in print and on film, rebelled against the lot of women of her time.
“It’s a sign of your own worth sometimes if you’re hated by the right people.”