HomeHistoryEsme Gollschewsky's life as a writer

Esme Gollschewsky’s life as a writer

Esme Gollschewsky
Esme Gollschewsky began sending stories to various women's magazines, including The New Idea for Women and The Australian Woman's Mirror. Image: National Library of Australia

Using a pen name bearing only her initials Bundaberg-born writer Esme Gollschewsky spent her early years often mistaken for a man.

It was Esme’s love of the land and passion for adventure that was encapsulated in each of her stories.

To those who only knew her through her cleverly crafted short stories, including the editors to whom the stories were submitted, it was assumed that only a man could write with such authority on this subject.

Research undertaken by Bundaberg Regional Libraries Heritage Team shares Esme's history as one of Australia’s most respected short story writers.

Born Esme Strathdee in Bundaberg in 1917 she began writing at a young age.

Encouraged by her parents, she had published stories and poems in the local newspaper by the time she was 10 years old.

Bundaberg Library's heritage research paper collated in 2006 states that growing up as one of the youngest in a large family, Esme often heard tales of the region's early days.

Esme Gollschewsky
Esme Gollschewsky began sending stories to various women's magazines, including The New Idea for Women and The Australian Woman's Mirror. Image: National Library of Australia

“The legends, people and way of life were told and retold by her parents and relatives until they were as familiar as bedtime stories,” it reads.

Growing up in the Bundaberg Region, Esme's father inherited Maudsleigh in 1915, a large property between Rubyanna Creek and the Burnett River which she would later detail in a short story titled Jibber.

“Sunday afternoon at Maudsleigh, towards the end of summer. Sailing boats skidding over the silvery flatness of the Burnett River…”

In the 1940s, when Esme was married with children, she began sending stories to various women's magazines, including The New Idea for Women and The Australian Woman's Mirror, under the names Esme Strathdee and Esme Gollschewsky.

But she would use the pen name E A Gollschewsky for submissions to masculine journals such as Overland and The Bulletin.

Esme believed by using multiple names she could submit two or three times as many stories to editors.

In 1943 Esme, with husband Harold and their children, moved to Deepwater where they farmed bananas for several years.

In the years to follow it is believed Esme wrote some of her best work, and by 1946 she was recognised as one of Australia’s leading short story writers.

The same year an annual publication Coast to Coast compiled 10 of Australia's best short story authors and included her piece Hans and the Bull.

Esme’s fishing story The Salmon remains highly regarded internationally. In the 1970s, many of Esme’s short stories were published overseas in collections of Australian literature, with some being translated into other languages.

While many of her works are now out of print and difficult to find, Esme's talents are still recognised as being among the finest in her field.

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