The Empress – Catherine Helen Spence

“As an archetype, the Empress is one that will be familiar to most of us. A life-giver, a creator, a source from which all life has sprung. The Empress represents the desire within every living thing to grow and flourish. It represents the world bringing you forth, asking you to simply be”. Little Red Tarot

This Empress personifies the impulse to nurture and nourish. This is fertility and growth. This is the ability to plant a seed and give it all that it needs until it becomes a plant or a tree, producing seeds of its own. It is nature, feeding us. It is us, feeding nature. It is cycles of life and death and rebirth. It is a celebration of all that surrounds us, rolling in fields of golden barley, soaking up the abundance of it all. This is unstoppable, flowing life-force.

Little Red Tarot

If the Empress has appeared before you it may be time to birth a new creative project and make everything around you bloom. This could be as simple as regenerating a part of a garden, becoming an activist and lobbying for something you are passionate about, or taking up a research project like this.

Catherine Helen Spence was the leading woman in public affairs at the turn of the century in Australia. She had a huge influence at this time. She was in the vanguard of first-wave feminism seeking equality of opportunity for women in this country, and was lauded as the ‘Grand Old Woman of Australia’. From the pulpit to the platform, she championed the rights of women, lobbied for greater child welfare provision and argued for a more democratic electoral system.

Born near Melrose, Scotland on 31 October 1825, Catherine Helen Spence decided by the age of thirteen that she would become a teacher and later an author. Unfortunately her formal education came to a stop in 1839 as a result of her father’s financial ruin and social disgrace. With borrowed money her father invested in land in the new colony of South Australia and by the end of that year she arrived with her parents and seven brothers and sisters in Adelaide. From Spence’s point of view the move to Australia was a disaster and her early years were challenging as she adapted to life in this new, harsh land.

After this shaky beginning Catherine Helen Spence never really looked back. She was Australia’s first truly professional woman journalist and first female political candidate, as well as a fearless social and political reformer in South Australia. Her influence on suffrage, culminating in South Australia being the first state in the world to give women the right to stand for Parliament, extended beyond Australia.

As an indication of her continuing influence, Adelaide’s daily newspaper The Advertiser on 20 December 1999 included Catherine Helen Spence in its list of the ten greatest South Australians of the 20th century, and this despite the fact that most of her work was done in the 19th century.

Spence’s role in Federation was recognised nationally by her placement on one side of Australia’s 2001 Federation five dollar note, with Sir Henry Parkes ‘the father of federation’ on the other.

An Empress Amongst Her People

Lowitja O’Donoghue’s leadership in Aboriginal rights has been highly influential. A member of the stolen generation, she has also been an advocate of reconciliation and avoided politics of confrontation, finding conciliation to be more effective.