"My Husband Had A Demanding Career. So, At First, I Compromised Mine."



Ten years ago, I was 29 and at a turning point in my life. I had my first full-year contract as a creative writing academic in Melbourne. Admittedly, this doesn’t sound very stable but compared with having to reapply for sessional lecturing positions every semester, it seemed like success. I was also about to get married to a very lovely person with a demanding (and much better paid) career of his own. Because my office hours were shorter, I tended to do all the housework. Because his work was based in Melbourne, I didn’t apply for positions at universities interstate or overseas. These were my choices, and I was happy with them, I believed then.

It was at this time that I picked up a copy of My Brilliant Career. Having grown up in Aotearoa, I knew little about the author Miles Franklin. Her name was familiar from Australia’s two biggest fiction prizes (the Miles Franklin Award and the Stella Prize). Her severe expression was familiar from that iconic image of her in a tight corset, long black plait down her back. Otherwise, I knew nothing. As I read her autobiographical novel, published back in 1901 and written when she was still a teenager, I became fascinated.

The “firebrand” narrator, Sybylla (based on Stella herself) is tempted by the conventional path of marriage but ends up rejecting it in favour of becoming a writer. Her suitor Harold Beecham (played by Sam Neill in the film version) ends up marrying her younger sister, Gertie, instead.

As I immersed myself in Linda’s life, I recognised that I was curtailing my career to try and be a good wife and mother. Options I might’ve chosen – for instance, to apply for academic jobs outside of Melbourne – I didn’t consider because I didn’t want to rupture my family life or impose on my husband’s career. Everyone has to make choices, I believed, while failing to admit that the choices I was making were influenced by patriarchal expectations. It was Stella’s influence that I needed instead...

Meet The Women Making Thousands From Their Wardrobes



Discover the inspiration behind Brown’s debut novel My Brilliant Sister—and how she restored balance to her marriage—at PRIMER.


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