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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Luffman, Lauretta Caroline Maria (1846–1929)

by Margaret Bettison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Lauretta Caroline Maria Luffman (1846-1929), writer and women's activist, was born on 17 December 1846 at Bedford, England, third child of John Edward Lane, naval lieutenant, and his wife Lauretta Maude, née Bluett. A delicate child, motherless from the age of 10, she was educated at home and in France. She was a 'born reader'.

From her early twenties Laura was engaged in writing, in philanthropic work and in helping her married sister to run a boys' school. Her first full-length work, a three-volume novel, Gentleman Verschoyle, was published in 1875 under the name, Laura M. Lane. Between 1877 and 1894 fourteen more books appeared including a biography (1890) of Alexander Vinet, the Swiss critic and theologian. However most were stories for girls, some about young working women. She suffered a nervous illness in the early 1880s and for some years lived on the Continent. On a visit to London she helped Clementina Black, 'an ardent social reformer', to collect evidence on women in sweated industries and was 'borne to the brink of the new Socialism'.

In London in 1893 she met Carl Bogue Luffman. She joined him in Melbourne where they were married at St James' Church on 14 December 1895; from 1897 he was principal of the School of Horticulture, Burnley. She found Melbourne parochial but enjoyed visiting the country and shared her husband's interest in horticulture and visitors to the gardens.

Her life with Luffman ended abruptly about 1902 and she moved to Sydney where she took up journalism. In 1903-05, as 'Una', Mrs Luffman contributed articles on women to the Daily Telegraph. In 1903 women in New South Wales voted for the first time; while interviewing the leaders of the women's political associations, she met and became a close friend of Mrs Hilma Molyneux Parkes, founder of the Women's Liberal League of New South Wales (Women's Reform League from 1915). In May-October 1905 Mrs Luffman edited the monthly At Home and gave the league much favourable publicity. In 1908 she joined its council, was organizing secretary in 1909-18, president in 1918-21, and editor of its Monthly Record (Liberal Woman from 1910 and Woman's Voice from 1916). She often wrote practically the whole issue and when she resigned in 1923 Woman's Voice ceased.

Besides editing and public speaking, Mrs Luffman visited country and suburban areas as organizing secretary, and was a delegate to the National Council of Women of New South Wales. Much of her energy was spent in educating women as voters. During World War I she campaigned vigorously for conscription, worked for the Bush Book Club and the Australian Red Cross Society, and served on the executives of the Australasian League of Honour for Women and Girls, the Racial Hygiene Association, the Women's Horticultural and Home Industries Society and, after the war, the State branch of the League of Nations Union. She now regarded socialism as a threat to Australia, advocated free trade and was a strong supporter of the Empire.

Two of the short stories Laura Bogue Luffman had contributed to the Sydney Mail were reprinted in The Red Kangaroo (Sydney, 1907). A children's book, Will Aylmer: A Tale of the Australian Bush (London, 1909), and a novel, A Question of Latitude (London, 1911), are both set in Australia. In the 1920s she contributed articles to the Sydney Morning Herald and wrote an unpublished autobiography, 'Impressions of life by a contented woman'. She was remembered as dignified and reserved in manner, especially towards those who did not know her well. She loved the bush and regularly visited her Bluett cousins at Brindabella.

She died on 7 June 1929 at Queanbeyan and was cremated with Anglican rites. The Laura Bogue Luffman literary competition was established by (Dame) Mary Gilmore in her memory.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Mordaunt, Sinabada (Lond, 1937)
  • Woman's Voice, 1 Sept 1918
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 7 Apr 1915
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Oct 1916, 22 Mar, 13 Apr, 5 Dec 1917, 6 June 1919, 18 Mar 1921, 8, 29 June, 30 July 1929.

Citation details

Margaret Bettison, 'Luffman, Lauretta Caroline Maria (1846–1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 23 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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