Woman Franklin, Stella Maria(n) Sarah Miles (1879 - 1954)

14 October 1879
Talbingo, New South Wales, Australia
19 September 1954
Drummoyne, New South Wales, Australia
Suffragist and Writer
Alternative Names
  • Brent of Bin Bin (Pen name)
  • Miles Franklin (Pen name)

Written by Dorothy Erickson, Independent Scholar

Stella Miles Franklin was a leading writer who published under the pseudonyms Miles Franklin and Brent of Bin Bin. She was born in Talbingo in 1879, the daughter of grazier John Franklin of Bin Bin station and his wife Susannah (nee Lampe). Brought up on the classics of English literature she enjoyed a happy childhood in the wildness of the Brindabella Ranges until she was nine when circumstances forced the family to become 'cocky' farmers. It was a life of poverty and drudgery and endless childbearing for her mother that affected Miles' attitude to marriage. Miles did not complete secondary schooling; her only qualification was an honours certificate in music. She had a talent for writing however and at sixteen commenced her novel My Brilliant Career, writing by candlelight after a hard day's work on the farm. When Angus and Robertson rejected the novel, she turned for advice to the writer Henry Lawson, who arranged an agent. When the novel came out in 1901 it caused a furore with the family and neighbours, who threatened to sue. The shocking Miss Franklin's strong views on the drudgery of marriage, on the church and on venereal diseases also upset the clergy. Consequently she issued instructions that the book should not be reprinted until after her death and published most of her next twenty novels under pseudonyms. To get away from the farm Franklin worked as a maid and wrote in her spare time. The writer Joseph Furphy was encouraging.

Taken up as a protégé by the outstanding NSW feminist Rose Scott, Franklin was introduced to influential feminists such as Maybanke Anderson and Vida Goldstein, who urged her to go to America. So with introductions to philanthropic circles, she sailed for San Francisco in 1906 and reached Chicago where overworked, and distressed by the death of her sister in childbirth, she had a nervous breakdown. Convalescing with wealthy philanthropists opened doors to more suitable work and she became the Secretary of the American National Women's Trade Union League editing various union magazines. When World War I broke out she left for Europe, wanting to help in the war effort as well as gain experience for more novels. She worked at various jobs, eventually enrolling in the Scottish Women's Hospital Service, which sent her to Macedonia as a cook. Here she caught malaria and was invalided out. On her recovery she worked for the National Housing Council and wrote novels under the name Brent of Bin Bin. She returned to Australia only in 1932 to care for her widowed mother. She found it a changed place where much had advanced in the cause of women. In 1935 she received the King's Silver Jubilee Medal for literature and in 1936 her novel All That Swagger won her the S. H. Prior Memorial Prize. During World War II she became a broadcaster for the ABC. She lived frugally, working with the grand aim of founding a prize to encourage Australian authors and drawing up her will to provide for the literary prize that would bear her name. When she died in 1954 people were astonished at the size of the fund. The Miles Franklin Award has become Australia's foremost literary prize. Her first novel, My Brilliant Career, was made into a popular film.

Published Resources


  • De Vries, Susanna, Great Australian women. Volume II, From pioneering days to the present, vol. 2 of 2, Harper Collins Publishers, Pymble, New South Wales, 2002. Details
  • Roe, Jill, Stella Miles Franklin, Fourth Estate, Sydney, New South Wales, 2008. Details

Edited Books

  • Roe, Jill (ed.), My Congenials: Miles Franklin and Friends in Letters, 2 edn, Angus & Robertson, Pymble, New South Wales, 2010. Details

Journal Articles

Online Resources