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About us

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Wingecarribee Women Writers is part of a global movement that celebrates women’s stories, voices and creativity.

Our purpose is to empower women of the Wingecaribee & beyond, to ensure their stories and voices are heard in literature and the arts.

The Charlotte Project

The first initiative of the Wingecarribee Women Writers was 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 (1796-1867) was a trail-blazing author, artist and pioneer in the fight for women's legal rights. She defended a landmark case in the Supreme Court of NSW to retain custody of her own children, after suffering violence at the hands of her second husband.

 

We have officially achieved our goal thanks to the generous support of our community and the Charlotte statue was unveiled in Berrima on Dec 9 2023. 

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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 was 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. A plaque for Charlotte and her family was unveiled in 2022.

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Self-portrait, Charlotte Waring Atkinson (1848), courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

Monumental Women

 

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! 

 

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. We are currently celebrating achieving this and looking to new projects for 2024.

 

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Thank you

 

Thank you to the individuals and community groups for their time and support for The WWW: 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, Piccolo Ponies, Southern Highlands Writers Festival, and local sculptor Julie Haseler Reilly.

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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

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