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Barbara Baynton Biography

(1857–1929), Bulletin, Bush Studies, Cobbers, Human Toll

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Australian author, born in New South Wales. Her early life was turbulent; having been deserted by her first husband in 1887, she moved to Sydney and in 1890 married Thomas Baynton, a retired surgeon with literary interests. In 1896 she began publishing stories, first in the Bulletin. After her first visit to London in 1902, and Baynton's death in 1904, she spent more frequent periods in England and for a short time, from 1921, she was married to Lord Headley. Her first collection, Bush Studies (1902), depicts the grim exigencies of bush life in the early years of the century, in a starkly realist tone. Many of the protagonists are women, frequently harshly treated by their menfolk, who become the victims of cruel circumstance. In one story, ‘The Chosen Vessel’, a women left alone in a remote bush hut is raped and murdered by a passing swagman; in ‘Billy Skywonkie’, a young woman of mixed race journeys to a bush station in search of work, only to be rejected on the grounds of her colour. A new edition of the book, Cobbers (1917), contained additional stories. Human Toll (1907) is a novel. Her work has been brought back into focus by feminist criticism.

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