An Australian Song Cycle

Words and Music: Lorraine Milne
Additional words: Lois Ellis

Arranged for 3-part female choir
Copyright © 1997 / 2013

The lyrics

1. She was born to this world,
Bright of eye, dark of hair, just a slip of a girl.
She grew up in the bush where she learnt to survive,
Learnt to live with the shove and push.

Oh Louisa, Oh Louisa, what a story to tell.
Bore her children in conditions akin to hell.

2. When the fever took hold
Her husband would rush to the search for elusive gold.
Leave his children and wife to fend for themselves
And to make what they could of life.

Oh Louisa, Oh Louisa, what a story to tell.
Raised her family in conditions akin to hell.

Bridge: Now her son has his fame, yet we don't know her name.
All she published,
All she wrote,
All she did to secure the vote.

Oh Louisa, Oh Louisa, what a story to tell.
Fought her battles in conditions akin to hell.

3. Every feminine voice gathers strength through the years
From the gift that she gave by choice.
Time to pay out what's due,
Recognise and applaud all the freedoms she won
For me and for you.

Oh Louisa, Mrs Lawson, what a story to tell.
She empowered, she inspired,
She enlightened, she awakened,
Australian women everywhere....
Come out of your shell.

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The story

Oh Louisa owes a great deal to Brian Matthews book, Louisa, published in 1987.

Louisa Lawson
Portrait of Louisa Lawson. ca. 1880
National Library of Australia nla.pic-vn4464670

Born near Mudgee in New South Wales, Louisa ”…was a clever and thoughtful girl who married at 18 and moved to a bark hut on the goldfields with her husband. Her life there was hard and lonely. Her husband was often away, leaving Louisa alone to bring up their small children on very little money...In 1883, she left her husband and moved to Sydney.” (1)

"...In 1888 she started Dawn [a women’s magazine], announcing that it would publicize women's wrongs, fight their battles and sue for their suffrage…In May 1889 Louisa launched the campaign for female suffrage and announced the formation of the Dawn Club. Who ordained that men only should make the laws which both women and men must obey, she asked, but her case rested on more than abstract justice. Woman's vote was needed to change evil laws and to protect women and their children. At the Dawn Club women met regularly to discuss 'every question of life, work and reform' and to gain experience in public speaking…"(2)

(1) http://www.civicsandcitizenship.edu.au/cce/default.asp?id=9148"
Used by permission Commonwealth of Australia; licensed under a creative commons license.
(see: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/au/)

(2) Heather Radi, 'Lawson, Louisa (1848–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography,
National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,
http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lawson-louisa-7121/text12285, published in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 3 July 2014.