Classic Author Focus: Miles Franklin

Miles Franklin

Miles Franklin was an Australian writer and feminist who was determined to develop a uniquely Australian form of literature and whose success is measured by the Stella prize for the best Australian literature by a woman, established by her estate and named in her honor. (Her full name was Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin.) She is best known for My Brilliant Career, published in 1901, about the life of an irrepressible teenage girl in the isolated bush country. Her books were controversial because of her outright rejection of traditional women’s roles and her feminism. Her second novel, My Career Goes Bung was considered so shocking that it wasn’t published until 1946 even though it was written before 1906.

Franklin was born in a remote area of the bush called Talbingo in New South Wales. She was the oldest daughter of two Australian-born parents, and she was devoted to the wild areas of Australia.

After the publication of My Brilliant Career in 1901, Franklin tried work as a nurse and then as a housemaid, all the while submitting pieces for publication. She finally moved to the United States, where she worked for another Australian, Alice Henry, as a secretary for the National Woman’s Trade Union League and co-edited the league’s magazine. She continued to move around, to England and Greece and continued to publish. During WW I, she joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the Serbian campaigns and served as a cook and an orderly in a hospital attached to the Serbian army. She returned to Australia in 1932 after the death of her father. There she published several historical novels, some of them written under the name Brent of Bin Bin.

Although Franklin continued to support Australian literature by encouraging young writers, supporting literary journals, and speaking at cultural and literary events, she unfortunately was a member of a pro-isolationist, anti-war, anti-Semitic group called Australian First Movement and attended three meetings. However, her diaries show that she was against the group’s beliefs, except for their anti-war stance.

When Franklin died, her ashes were scattered near where she was born.

Dates: 1879-1954

Most popular work: My Brilliant Career

Other works: My Career Goes Bung, Some Everyday Folk and Dawn, Old Blastus of Bandicoot, All That Swagger, On Dearborn Street, Childhood at Brindabella, and more

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