Colonial feminism and Australian literary culture in Ethel and Lilian Turner's the Parthenon (1889-1892)

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The Parthenon is a unique example of a colonial Australian magazine published
for girl readers by two aspirant writers, Ethel and Lilian Turner. In addition to its
domestic content, typical of women’s magazines, it also sought to contribute to
nascent Australian literary culture. This article locates the Parthenon within the
history of colonial women’s publishing and literary culture, and situates its content within the context of the Woman Movement of the period. It reads the
Parthenon’s telling picture of young women’s perceptions of colonial literary
culture and of the need to balance literary aspirations with domestic responsibilities through the lens of the “expediency feminism” advocated by the Dawn, a women’s magazine published by Louisa Lawson from 1888. The article argues that the Parthenon’s superficially conservative opinion of women’s supreme calling being in the home rather than the newspaper office or university library was in alignment with the arguments made by the Woman Movement to advocate for women’s greater participation in the public sphere. The comparison of these contemporaneous monthly publications written and produced by women enables an understanding of the ways in which late nineteenth-century attempts to encourage women’s careers and independence were grounded in domesticity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-201
Number of pages17
JournalWomens Writing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • periodicals
  • feminism
  • Australia
  • literary culture

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