Stella Miles Franklin was born in the Australian bush in 1879. By the age of twenty, Miles Franklin had completed her first novel, My Brilliant Career. After it was rejected by local publishers, she sent it to Henry Lawson, who called it ‘the first great Australian novel’. He wrote a preface for it and helped her to get it published in Britain in 1901. The sequel, My Career Goes Bung, was written in 1900 but was not published until 1946, considered too audacious and perhaps too revealing of its creator’s own persona for publication.
Miles’ early success gave her entree to literary and socialist circles in Sydney and Melbourne. By 1906 she decided to travel overseas, and went to work for the women’s labour movement in Chicago. In 1915 she relocated to London and worked for various feminist and progressive causes, all the while continuing to write. A prolific author of plays as well as novels and archetypal bush stories, she often submitted work under pseudonyms that she guarded fiercely all her life. In the 1930s she returned to Australia and determined to take up the cause of Australian writing and writers. Her endowment of the Miles Franklin literary award not only surprised all who knew her, but founded an Australian literary institution that remains our most prestigious.