Harford, Lesbia (1891–1927) By Pottroff, Christy
Lesbia Harford was an Australian writer and political activist. Despite these seemingly complementary roles, she did not view her writing as an instrument for social change, and very few of her poems are overtly political. Harford’s poetry is both social and romantic, addressing themes of love, work, and domesticity. Her writing negotiates the world of imperfections through a minimalist style. Harford attended the University of Melbourne and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1916. During her undergraduate years, Harford, already committed to social justice, became embroiled in anti-war and anti-conscription activism. Rather than pursuing a legal career, she embodied her socialist politics and worked at a clothing factory. She later joined the Industrial Workers of the World. Only a few of Harford’s poems were published during her lifetime. New interest in reclaiming marginalized writing led to the discovery of Harford’s lost novel, The Invaluable Mystery, in the Australian Archives. Published in 1987, the novel concerns an urban working-class woman and her struggle to survive independently during the Great War.