Catherine Helen Spence

People of Adelaide

Catherine helen spencer

Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910), writer and reformer, was born in Scotland and migrated to South Australia in 1839. Responsible for the first novel about Australia written by a woman, Clara Morison: A Tale of South Australia During the Gold Fever (1854), she became a regular paid contributor to the South Australian Register, and her book The Laws We Live Under (1880) was the first social studies textbook used in Australian schools.

In 1872 Spence co-founded the Boarding-Out Society with Caroline Clark to foster orphaned and destitute children with families. She became Vice-President of the Women's Suffrage League of South Australia in 1891, then lectured extensively across Australasia, the United States, Britain and Switzerland. On her return to Adelaide, Spence formed the Effective Voting League of South Australia in 1895.

Spence became Australia’s first female political candidate when she ran for the Federal Convention in 1897; coming a respectable twenty-second out of thirty-three candidates.

Image: Maude Gordon, Australia, ca.1872-1947, Catherine Helen Spence, 1900, Adelaide, miniature portrait in oils 7.2 cm x 6.4 cm, State Library of South Australia B 11192.