Miles Franklin

“I have always enjoyed a little mystery.”

Miles Franklin, Australian author and feminist, 1879-1954

Miles Franklin is best known for her seminal coming of age novel My Brilliant Career, which has gone on to become an Australian classic. She was involved in the early Australian feminist movement and her work was often rejected by publishers for being too controversial. As a result, her six chronicle novels of the pioneer years were published under the pseudonym Brent of Bin Bin. 

Franklin was born on a cattle farm in New South Wales. She wrote My Brilliant Career when she was a teenager and it was published in 1901 when she was 21. It tells the story of a teen growing up in the bush, yearning to break free. When the character is pursued doggedly by a wealthy suitor, she refuses to marry him, despite his persistence, and instead pursues a career as a writer. The story never has a denouement and conclusion, leaving it to the reader to imagine the ending. It was an immediate success.

One would deduce this was the start of her own “brilliant career” as a novelist, but in 1906 Walton moved to Chicago, becoming a secretary, and was involved in the women’s suffrage movement. She was very vulnerable to criticism, and thus her writing life was stop-and-start. She wrote a sequel, My Life Goes Bung, which wasn’t well understood at the time and didn’t get published until 40 years later. In the interim, Franklin moved to London during WWI and worked in a slum nursery, became an ambulance driver, and cooked in a 200-bed tent hospital.

She returned to Australia in 1932, reclaimed her real name, and published All That Swagger, her second most famous work. Like the heroine of her first novel, she never married or had children, despite having many suitors. But her story does have an ending: she died in New South Wales of a coronary occlusion at the age of 75.


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