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Fidelia S. T. Hill (1794 – 1854)

Fidelia Savage Thornton Munkhouse was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire, England, on 14 August 1794, the daughter of a clergyman, Dr. Richard Munkhouse, and his wife Fidelia (née Savage). Little is known of her upbringing, but the family was large and not very well off; Richard Munkhouse died in 1810, leaving his widow and seven surviving children.

In 1830, Fidelia married Robert Keate Hill, a captain in the service of the East India Company, and the couple moved to Jamaica shortly thereafter. In the mid-1830s, they travelled to Australia on the understanding that Robert Hill would be given a position in the new colony of South Australia. Fidelia Hill arrived in the infant settlement of Adelaide in 1836, remaining there until about 1838. In the early 1840s she moved to Tasmania, where, with her first husband having died, she married Henry Howe, a Hobart draper, in 1842. They settled in Launceston, where Fidelia died in 1854.

While living in Sydney in 1840, Fidelia Hill published, by subscription, her Poems and Recollections of the Past, a collection of poetry exploring her memories and impressions of life in England and in the colonies. In her preface to the work, Hill announced herself ‘the first who has ventured to lay claim to the title of Authoress, in Sydney’ – though other women poets contributing to the newspaper press had preceded her, Hill's Poems and Recollections of the Past was the first volume of poetry by a woman published in Australia.

Poetry Collections
  • Poems and Recollections of the Past Sydney [The Author] 1840
Suggested Further Reading
  • Phillip Butterss Fidelia Hill: Finding a Public Voice Southwards: Essays on South Australian Writing Kent Town, S.A. Wakefield Press 1995 pp. 16-26.
  • Patricia Clarke Pen Portraits: Women Writers and Journalists in Nineteenth Century Australia North Sydney Allen and Unwin 1988 pp. 18-19.
  • Elizabeth Webby Born to Blush Unseen: Some Nineteenth Century Women Poets A Bright and Fiery Troop: Australian Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century Debra Adelaide Ringwood, Victoria Penguin 1988 pp. 41-52.