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Cooper, Leontine Mary Jane (1837 - 1903)

22 April 1837
Battersea, London, England
12 March 1903
Toowong, Queensland, Australia
Bi-lingual scholar, Journalist, Teacher, Women's rights activist and Writer
Alternative Names
  • Buisson, Leontine Mary Jane (Birth Name)
  • L.C. (Nom de plume)


Leontine Cooper was Queensland's most significant writer addressing the rights of white women during the movement for woman suffrage in that state. By the late 1880s she had emerged as one of the key activists who contributed to progressive movements in Australian political life and Australian feminism. Cooper wrote short stories for the Boomerang and in the mid 1890s edited Queensland's only women's suffrage newspaper, the Star. For a short time she edited Flashes, a society newspaper, and for a while wrote 'Queensland Notes' for Louisa Lawson's feminist journal, the Dawn.

In 1889 Leontine Cooper led a breakaway group from the Woman's Equal Franchise Association, which became known as the Queensland Woman's Suffrage League. Cooper was concerned that the women's suffrage movement should not be 'captured' by the Labor Party, and become subject to party politics. Leontine founded and served as inaugural president of the Brisbane Pioneer Club in 1899 which, like its London namesake, was a progressive women's club.


Leontine Cooper was the eldest child born to Frenchman Jean Francois Buisson and his English wife Dorothea (nee Smithers). She spent her early life living in the inner-London precinct of Battersea, and then at seaside Brighton, and married her husband, Edward Cooper (a surveyor), in London in 1866. She arrived in Brisbane on the 'Royal Dane' in November 1871, and during the 1870s worked briefly as a school teacher at Chinaman's Creek (now Albany Creek), and subsequently Brisbane Girls' Grammar School, where she taught French.

During the 1880s and 1890s Cooper became a prominent Brisbane literary figure, serving on the influential Brisbane School of Arts committee, and playing an active role within the Brisbane Literary Circle, where she mixed with a number of leading social and political figures within colonial society. It was also during this period that Cooper emerged as a social justice and women's suffrage advocate. She was, for many years, a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty, and in 1891 served as Queensland Government appointee to the Shops and Factories Royal Commission.

Leontine Cooper does not appear to have been related to pioneering medical practitioner Lilian Cooper who arrived in Brisbane in 1891, and who was also a significant 19th and early 20th century Queensland feminist figure.

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Cooper, Leontine', in Austlit: The Australian Literature Resource, 2008,$IQ; Ferrier, Carole, 'Leontine Cooper', in Who is Who around 1900?, Centre for Research on Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change, University of Queensland, St Lucia, 2005,

Lee Butterworth

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