The Charlotte Project
The Charlotte Project
Wingecarribee Women Writers is part of a global movement that celebrates women’s voices and stories. Our purpose is to empower women writers; to ensure they are visible and that their voices are heard.
The first initiative of the Wingecarribee Women Writers is THE CHARLOTTE PROJECT—a public fundraising appeal to erect a bronze statue of Charlotte Atkinson (1796 - 1867) in Berrima Park near the children’s playground. Charlotte Atkinson was Australia’s first children’s book author and a pioneer for women’s rights in NSW. She lived in Sutton Forest.
Our fundraising target is $80,000 to cover the costs of materials, casting and erecting the statue. The Charlotte Project Appeal is a campaign hosted by The Southern Highlands Foundation. The statue will be a gift to the Southern Highlands community but we need your help to make the statue a reality.
Watercolour sketches of flowers and butterflies, Charlotte Waring Atkinson (1843), courtesy Neil McCormack
The Statue of Charlotte
Wingecarribee Women Writers are most grateful to local sculptor Julie Haseler Reilly who has generously volunteered to design and make a bronze statue commemorating the life of Charlotte Atkinson and her children.
Charlotte lived at Oldbury Farm near Sutton Forest, built by her adored first husband James Atkinson. As well as Australia’s first children’s book author, she was a pioneer in the fight for a woman’s legal right in NSW to retain custody of her children when she fled the violence of her second husband.
Charlotte is buried in an unmarked grave in Sutton Forest along with her youngest daughter Louisa who became a celebrated botanical artist and the first Australian-born writer.
Self-portrait, Charlotte Waring Atkinson (1848), courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW
Australia needs many more monuments to recognise historical female figures. Less than 4% do so. Indeed there are more statues of animals than women in Australia!
Although Bowral has the wonderful Mary Poppins statue, there are no statues of real women in the Southern Highlands at all.
Wingecarribee Women Writers is part of an international female-led movement to ‘break through the bronze ceiling’ by launching an appeal to publicly commemorate Australia’s first children’s book author, Charlotte Atkinson, with a bronze statue here in the Highlands.
Thank you to the individuals and community groups for their time and support for The Charlotte Project appeal: Southern Highlands Community Foundation, Wingecarribee Shire Council, Shannon Barge at Life at Springfield, Berrima Historical Society, Highlife Magazine, Berrima Residents Association, the Australian Garden History Society – Southern Highlands Brand, Southern Highlands Writers Festival, and local sculptor Julie Haseler Reilly.
The Charlotte Project appeal will be launched at the Southern Highlands Writers Festival on 15 October.
All donations are tax deductible.
The Catalyst for the Charlotte Project
Wingecarribee Women Writers was formed during a writing retreat at Life at Springfield in November 2021. The retreat leaders were Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell, who are the great-great-great-great-granddaughters of Charlotte Waring Atkinson, and the authors of Searching for Charlotte: The Fascinating Story of Australia’s First Children’s Author. They led an expedition to the All Saints Anglican Cemetery at Sutton Forest, where Charlotte Atkinson & her daughter Louisa lie in unmarked graves. The group was moved by the loss and shame that these women are uncommemorated. Wingecarribee Women Writers was formed, under the wider umbrella of empowering women writers, to raise funds for a monument to the lives and works of these remarkable colonial women. Kate and Belinda are also raising funds privately for commemorative plaques at the gravesite.
“I daresay there are many wonderful things as yet undiscovered.” - Charlotte Waring Atkinson