Wakefield Press is an independent book publishing company based in Adelaide, South Australia.

Follow us on Twitter

Mary Lee

The life and times of a 'turbulent anarchist' and her battle for women's rights

Denise George

Mary Lee
Suffragist and social justice advocate Mary Lee was determined to leave the world a better place than she found it. The feisty 59-year-old widow, of limited means and with few family and friends, settled in Adelaide in 1879 and immediately set to work.

Undaunted by the opposition of antagonistic politicians and a conservative public, Mary thrust herself into high profile campaigns in support of female refuge, improving women's working conditions and gaining women's suffrage. In 1894, South Australia became the first place in the world to pass legislation giving women the right to vote and be elected members of parliament, thanks in no small part to Mary Lee's energy and committed determination.

The disappearance of Mary Lee's journals and most of her letters, along with a dearth of recorded women's history, kept her contribution to history hidden for more than 125 years. Undeterred, author Denise George travelled to Ireland and her painstaking examination of local records both there and in Adelaide revealed the compelling story of a woman who took on the Establishment, and won.

'I hope Mrs Lee will forgive me indicating that in my youthful opinion she is a turbulent anarchist.' - Young South Australian, 1893

Praise for Mary Lee

'Denise has done us a great service. She has written a tribute to and testimony of the great Mary Lee, in itself a worthy and wonderful thing, but she has provided our state, indeed nation and beyond, with a rich resource. I hope this is on every school's reading list! - Natasha Stott Despoja

'This is our best contribution to the history of a suffragist who arrived late in the colonies with a class sensibility and lived experience of reform that drove her to work towards lasting change for South Australian women, and indeed for women everywhere.' - Australian Historical Studies

‘[Mary Lee] managed to leave this world, and most certainly South Australia, a better place than she had found it. And what a story it turned out to be!' - Nic Klaassen, Flinders Ranges Research

'A fascinating book ... Solidly researched.' - Lynne Lancaster, Sydney Arts Guide

'A perfect companion to Clare Wright’s recently published You Daughters of Freedom ... Denise George deserves all credit for unearthing the story from obscurity ... a very readable and totally inspiring biography.' - Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

'This is a great book for those who love history and are interested in the history of South Australia and particularly the position of women in our history. It certainly should be on every library shelf in South Australia, but also would make a great gift for history buffs. Denise George has accessed many sources to paint a picture of a woman, who because of her gender perhaps did not always have her private life recorded for posterity. Fortunately, her advocacy has left a collection of powerful letters and writing that George has used to tell the story of this amazing woman who worked hard into her senior years on behalf of South Australian women. Highly recommended.' - Carolyn Hull, ReadPlus

Denise George studied Professional Writing and Communication, and has a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide. Mary Lee is the result of exhaustive searches in Armagh, Monaghan, Cambridge, London and Adelaide.

Denise grew up in South Australia and lives on the Adelaide seafront.
Format Paperback
Size 210 x 140 mm
ISBN 9781743055960
Extent 270 pages
Price: AU$34.95 including GST
Add to wish list