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poetry An Improver

There’s a strong feminist working-class voice in the poetry of Australian writer Lesbia Harford 1891-1927.

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An Improver

By Lesbia Harford


Maisie’s been holding down her head all day,
Her little red head. And her pointed chin
Rests on her neck that slips so softly in
The square-cut low-necked darling dress she made
In such a way, since it’s high-waisted, too,
It lets you guess how fair young breasts begin
Under the gentle pleasant folds of blue.

But on the roof at lunch-time when the sun
Shone warmly and the wind was blowing free
She lifted up her head to let me see
A little rosy mark beneath the chin –
The mark of kisses. If her mother knew
She’d be ashamed, but a girl-friend like me
Made her feel proud to show her kisses to.

In her short life, Australian poet and novelist Lesbia Harford (1891-1927) was a factory worker, feminist, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), and among the first women to receive a law degree from the University of Melbourne.