Louisa Lawson established The Dawn in Sydney in 1888 and continued as editor and publisher until illness forced her to close in 1905. In the first editorial, writing as Dora Falconer, she outlined her vision for The Dawn as a 'phonograph to wind out audibly the whispers, pleadings, and demands of the sisterhood.' Editorials sourced elsewhere replaced her contributions when Lawson was ill and when she was injured in a tram accident. The final editorial is written by an uncredited third party. Nothing could have contrasted more with the optimistic and militant tone of the first editorial than this bitter final piece.
In an eclectic mix of the domestic and the global, the content of The Dawn covers a wide spectrum of subject matter from women's suffrage to gardening to children's stories 'for nothing concerning woman's life and interest lies outside our scope'. Each issue features a Poetry Page, at least one short story, children's fiction and instructional columns on news, fashion, food and gardening. The Dawn was primarily a vehicle for the dissemination of Lawson's political and social agendas and her own literary output as well as that of her son Henry and her daughter Gertrude. Articles, women's news, and stories reprinted from other sources reflect Lawson's global outlook and wide reading range. Pieces from the Boston Globe, Collier's Weekly, and Harper's Bazar are interspersed amongst uncredited Australian and international works. In early volumes uncredited literary works were marked "Selection" whilst submitted works were marked "Original".
Correspondence shows that its readership was spread throughout the eastern states at a price of three shillings per year. Some issues bear the annotation "Registered as a Newspaper" and "For Transmission Abroad" under the banner.
'The start of the women‘s press in Britain in 1855 by Emily Faithfull was an important step on the path to emancipation – women had now a voice in the media. Thirty-three years later Louisa Lawson, who has been called the first voice of Australian feminism, published the first number of The Dawn. This was a watershed in that it gave women a voice, marked women‘s political engagement in the public sphere, and employed women compositors, making available to a broader public issues which were politically relevant.
'In the first number Lawson asks, ―where is the printing-ink champion of mankind‘s better half? There has hitherto been no trumpet through which the concentrated voices of womankind could publish their grievances and their opinions.‖ This article will look at some of the content in the journal during the seventeen years of its existence, 1888- 1905. ' (Publication summary)
'Scholarship on Louisa Lawson and the Dawn has necessarily often focussed on the important and wide-ranging achievements of her feminist work for women's legal, social and political rights. Indeed, as Audrey Oldfield notes, "Louisa Lawson was one of the most important figures in the New South Wales woman suffrage movement" (261). However, I want to focus here on the periodical publishing context of the Dawn as a means of pointing to further discussions of Lawson's significance as a poet. Megan Roughley has noted that the Dawn "was a forum for political causes, especially the movement for the emancipation and enfranchisement of women, and, as importantly to Louisa, the temperance movement" (ix), with influential articles appearing on a wide range of important issues including divorce reform. Yet, Lawson's construction of the Dawn was also highly literary from its first issue, with editorial choices and literary references reflecting her awareness of political and feminist literary culture. In addition to references such as the above quotation from Tennyson, Lawson included an epigraph from Joseph Addison's play Cato in the list of contents: "A day, an hour, in virtuous liberty, is worth a whole eternity in bondage." Citing Addison, a significant figure in the American Revolution, demonstrates Lawson's linking of radical class politics with feminism, as well as highlighting the importance of literary dialogues to Lawson's publishing work. Likewise, the concerns of Lawson's poetry are clearly situated within a continuing female tradition, and Lawson's poetry, when examined in the feminist literary context of the Dawn, reveals a radical and sophisticated poetics.'