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Ethel Turner's Seven Little Australians

An Australian classic novel

Author and artist Ethel Sibyl Turner (1870-1958) wrote Seven Little Australians at Inglewood in Lindfield (now Woodlands, Killara) in 1893. Her suburban bushland surrounds became a key feature of her stories. On her 23rd birthday, Ethel wrote in her diary,

'Seven L. Aust. – sketched it out.' (24 January 1893).

'We have decided to go to Lindfield. It will be like being buried alive to live in a quiet little country place after the bustle and excitement of town life’, wrote Ethel Turner, who was not keen on her family’s move to the North Shore from the city suburb of Paddington in 1891. Although Ethel initially objected to the move,  she soon 'liked the place awfully. It is a pretty square house with a long balcony and verandah, honeysuckle and white roses creeping up' (29 Sept 1891[AW1] ).

Ethel Turner was born in England in 1870. In 1879 she migrated to Australia with her mother and two sisters. The family settled in Sydney where Ethel and her sister Lilian attended Sydney Girls High School. They both edited a schoolgirls' magazine, Iris, and later the Parthenon, a literary magazine which ran for three years. In 1892 Ethel took over the children's page in the Illustrated Sydney News. Turner was prolific during her time in Lindfield, writing three novels as well as newspaper articles and short stories between 1891 and 1894.

Ethel Turner, 1927 / photographic portrait by May Moore, Sydney

Her first novel, Seven Little Australians, was originally titled 'Six Pickles’. When it was published in 1894 it became an immediate success and has been in print ever since. It was followed by a sequel, The Family at Misrule, in 1895.  Turner married a lawyer, H.R. Curlewis in 1896 and by the time of her death in 1958 had produced over 40 books as well as numerous short stories and poems.

The Library holds Ethel Turner’s original manuscript for Seven Little Australians, hand-written in ink. The story has been translated into many languages, staged for the theatre (1914) and filmed (1939). Its frequent reprinting and an Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) television version in 1973 have confirmed its status as one of Australia's few undeniable children's classics.

Seven Little Australians


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The enjoyment of a good story: 19th-century children's books

Dr Anne Jamison
Narelle Ontivero
Deirdre Wildy

From tales of colonial adventure to moralising educational tracts, children’s literature in nineteenth-century Australia played a significant role in educating children as the nation’s future citizens.