AustLit logo
Olga Masters Olga Masters i(A11390 works by) (birth name: Olga Lawler)
Writing name for: Olga Lawler
Born: Established: 28 May 1919 Pambula, Merimbula - Pambula area, Far South Coast, South Coast, New South Wales, ; Died: Ceased: 27 Sep 1986 Wollongong, Wollongong area, Illawarra, South Coast, New South Wales,
Gender: Female
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


Olga Masters was born at Pambula, New South Wales, daughter of Joseph and Dorcas Lawler. She grew up during the 1930s depression and worked as a journalist with the Cobargo Chronicle from the age of fifteen. In 1937 she moved to Sydney, worked as a shorthand typist and writer of advertising copy for radio, and married Charles Masters, a schoolteacher, in 1940. The next twenty years were spent in New South Wales country towns raising seven children. Masters resumed her career as a journalist in 1955 when her youngest child was fourteen. She wrote mainly for the women's pages of country and suburban newspapers which she described as a long apprencticeship for her career as a fiction writer.

As a journalist, Masters mainly wrote human interest features; her fiction is in the same vein, frequently revolving around the lives and relationships of ordinary rural folk, particularly women. Masters attracted immediate attention from the beginning of her literary career in 1975 with several prizes for her short stories. In 1977 she withdrew from journalism to devote herself fulltime to writing fiction. Her first collection of stories, Home Girls (1982), and her first novel, Loving Daughters (1984), both attracted commendations. Then, during the 1980s, she published another collection and two novels, becoming a widely-admired participant at writers' festivals and other literary occasions.

Masters' fiction draws heavily on her experience of rural poverty, exploring familial and small-town relationships with a spare yet powerful prose style. Her examinations of young women attempting to achieve autonomy in such a setting are widely admired. Her politics were Labor and her religion Church of England. In 1984-1985 she gave readings and writing workshops for the National Book Council of Australia. In 1985 Masters was an exchange writer of the Australia Council Literature Board in the U.S.S.R.along with the writers Tom Shapcott and Chris Wallace-Crabbe.She also spent six weeks as a writer in residence at the Fremantle Arts Centre.

In the four busy years after the publication of her first book in 1982, Masters wrote four more. In 1985 she and her husband settled in Austinmer. Despite worries about her husband's health, despite tragedy in the family and despite the dreadful headaches that were the precursor to the brain tumour that eventually killed her, she continued writing - both fiction and journalism. Masters died in 1986. Selections of her journalism, unpublished stories and a play were published posthumously.

Most Referenced Works

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon Loving Daughters 1984 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1984 Z384163 1984 single work novel
1984 shortlisted National Book Council Award for Australian Literature
y separately published work icon The Home Girls St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1982 Z454861 1982 selected work short story

'Between the publication of The Home Girls, in 1982, and her death, Olga Masters was acclaimed as one of Australia's finest writers. Her short stories, distinguished by their acute observation of human behaviour, drew comparison with the finest exponents of the form, such as Chekhov.

'The Home Girls is a collection of candid, witty stories about rural and suburban life. Set in the mid-twentieth century, these are tales of ordinary people and domestic life. Masters was, as the Advertiser remarked, 'a natural storyteller'. ' (Publication summary)

1983 second National Book Council Award for Australian Literature

Known archival holdings

University of Queensland University of Queensland Library (QLD)
Last amended 29 Oct 2010 11:52:41
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: