Did you know there are more statues of animals than women in Australia?
And most of the existing statues of women are of Queen Victoria! We have an appalling lack of visible monuments to the incredible women who have contributed to our history and culture in this country. However, there is a nation-wide initiative to change that, and I’m very proud to be part of it.
The last few months my sister Belinda Murrell and I have been working with an amazing group of women to raise funds to create a statue of Charlotte Waring Atkinson (1796 – 1867), Australia’s first children’s author.
Charlotte was a remarkable woman. Born in England, she made the perilous sea journey to Australia to work as a governess for the Macarthur family in 1826. On the voyage, she fell in love with colonial landowner James Atkinson and they later married and settled at Oldbury House in the Southern Highlands. When James Atkinson died suddenly just six years later, Charlotte was left with four small children and a vast estate to manage. She survived a brutal ambush by a local bushranger, a disastrous and abusive second marriage, and a landmark court battle to retain custody of her children, before writing Australia’s first children’s book - A Mother’s Offering to her Children – published in 1841.
You may also know that she is my great-great-great-great-grandmother, and that Belinda and I wrote a book about her to celebrate the 180th anniversary of her book. Searching for Charlotte: The Fascinating Story of Australia’s First Children’s Author was published by the National Library of Australia and features a gorgeous cover utilising Charlotte’s own exquisite artwork. Last week it was commended in the Society of Women Writer’s award for best non-fiction and recently hit the bestsellers’ list again.
THE CHARLOTTE PROJECT is a public fundraising appeal to erect a bronze statue of Charlotte in Berrima Park near the children’s playground. Our fundraising target is $80,000 to cover the costs of materials, casting and erecting the statue. Local sculptor, Julie Haseler Reilly has generously donated her time and artistic skills to create the statue, and the Wingecarribee Women Writers have been working tirelessly to spread the word.
I’d like your help to do the same, and so I’m offering a signed first edition copy of Searching for Charlotte: The Fascinating Story of Australia’s First Children’s Author, signed by both me and my sister Belinda.
All you need to do is share the following picture on your social media feed with the hashtags #thecharlotteproject #searchingforcharlotte #smashthebronzeceiling before 30 December. Of coure, it’d be wonderful if you donated too. Every dollar helps us make history!
Thank you all so much, and I hope you all have a beautiful day.