Caroline Woolmer Leakey

(1827—1881) author

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(1827–81), born and educated in Exeter, England, returned there after spending five years (1848–53) in Tasmania with her sister. Her life was dominated by ill health and a strong Christian faith. The former limited her schooling, made her an invalid for most of her time in Australia, caused her return to England and severely restricted her activities after 1871; the latter led her, when able, to become involved in a variety of charitable works and to write for the Religious Tract Society and the Girls' Own Paper. Religion and the problems of sickness and death are major themes in her collection of poems Lyra Australis, published under her own name in 1854, and important ingredients also of The Broad Arrow, a novel about the convict system which was informed by her Tasmanian experiences and published under her pseudonym in 1859. Immensely popular in its time but subsequently out of print and neglected, The Broad Arrow is the only convict novel, apart from Lucy Cooper (see Lang, John) to have a female convict as its hero and is one of the first to be based on first-hand experience of a convict settlement. Recent rereadings emphasise the novel's implicit feminism and opposition to the colonial penal system, themes which transcend its surface evangelicalism. A memoir of Leakey by her sister Emily, Clear Shining Light, was published in 1882.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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