Louisa Atkinson – Australia’s first female environmental journalist

Louisa Atkinson 1834 – 1872

Caroline (usually called Louisa) Atkinson’s parents were literary – her father wrote a book on farming methods in New South Wales and her mother wrote the first book for children in Australia (published in England).

Louisa was a novelist and journalist with a life long interest in the natural environment.  When she was nineteen, her first illustrated articles Nature notes of the month with illustrations were published in the Illustrated Sydney News   She was the first woman in Australia to have a long-running series of articles published in a major newspaper. The Nature Notes described the natural changes that occurred throughout the year, included stories of bush life and the Aborigines, and were illustrated with her own engravings.

She was also the author of a regular column A voice from the country which ran for over ten years in the Sydney Morning Herald.  Her articles attracted the attention of prominent botanist Dr William Woolls, and 300 of her specimens collected at Kurrajong were sent to the famous naturalist Baron von Mueller who named several plants after her.  In her articles, Louisa sometimes called on her readers to protect important the environmental values she described.

Louisa was also the first Australian-born woman to write a book – Gertrude, the emigrant: a tale of colonial life  – and have it published in Australia.

Louisa was an advocate for the raising of funds for a expedition to find any survivors of Leichhardt’s ill-fated expedition of inland Australia.  Her column concluded with a a stirring, patriotic appeal to the women of New South Wales:

 [Leichhardt] may live–an old man, with white hair, with bent shoulders … He may have sunk to rest in the unknown wilderness. A mighty effort is [in the] making in Victoria to determine these doubts;–shall we not participate in so glorious and honourable a work? While the women of Victoria are collecting to fit out an expedition, shall their countrywomen here stand coldly aside? Surely not! (18)

Comments welcome.  I’m very happy to be corrected on anything above.

I’d be very interested in any information or stories about Louisa which contribute to our thoughts on women and leadership.


Louisa Atkinson, ‘Leichhardt’, ‘A Voice from the Country’, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 May 1865.

Photo from Wikipedia

Australian Women Fact File  Caroline Louisa Waring Atkinson Accessed 6 February 2011. and Wikipedia.

About Jane Elix

I don't have enough bandwidth to deal with this www.janeelix.com
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