A bronze statue to commemorate Australia’s first published children’s Author and advocate for womens’ education and legal rights, Charlotte Atkinson of Sutton Forest, has been approved for the park at historic Berrima. After presenting “The Charlotte Project” to Council at this week’s Extraordinary Meeting, Wingecarribee Women’s Writers member Kerrie Douglass is thrilled with this outcome for women everywhere.
“She was the country’s first published children’s author and a trail blazer for both the education of women and their legal rights.” Kerrie says.
Adventurous and fearless, Charlotte broke with convention when she fought for the right to raise her own children and secure a supporting income from the estate after her husband James Atkinson died when the children were young. She fled an abusive second marriage and eventually won custody of her children after a landmark court battle.
“Her book became a best-seller at the time,” Kerrie says. “Our research into where and how to represent the literary heroine has been well-informed by the writings of Charlotte’s descendants Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell in their book ‘Searching for Charlotte.”
It was a tradition in Georgian times to commemorate important figures by erecting statues in parks and public spaces. The historic charm of Georgian Berrima, and the Atkinson family’s long-standing connection to the village, made it an ideal choice for achieving visibility, awareness, public education and recognition among the large numbers of people who regularly visit the park.
“As few as 4% of statues in Australia represent women and we wanted to be part of the global movement to help redress this imbalance with a statue of Charlotte Atkinson here in the Southern Highlands,” Kerrie said. As the organisation A Monument of One’s Own states on its website; “We need monuments to women’s courage, vision, tenacity, obstinacy and resolve. Qualities that have without a doubt benefited our nation.”
A monument was once planned to honour Charlotte’s husband James Atkinson, who was the local Magistrate and owner of Oldbury estate which bordered the village. Charlotte and her family frequented the area and the statue depicts her reading to her children who will be represented by small sandstone blocks. Placement near the playground is very fitting and will encourage interaction and learning about our unique local heritage.
A plaque will share details of Charlotte’s impact with a QR code linked to an informative website.
One of many remarkable local women to get behind the project, Bowral Sculptor Julie Haseler Reilly generously volunteered to create the statue. Fundraising needed only for the materials and foundry process was hosted by the Southern Highlands Foundation and attracted overwhelming public generosity. In addition, grant funding was obtained through Community Assistance Scheme.
Following community consultation, The Charlotte Project has been made possible by the passion and commitment of many amazing women in our community. It’s a win for women everywhere and will enrich appreciation of local heritage.
“We’re adding to the park’s visual appeal and living history with this beautiful statue of Charlotte, a lasting gift to the people of Berrima and the Shire as a whole,” Kerrie said.