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23 January 2010

Miriam Agatha (Pseudonym for Agatha Magdalen Le Breton)

Agatha Magdalen Le Breton was born on 28 June 1886 in Maryborough, Queensland. She wrote under the name of Miriam Agatha. Le Breton wrote a series of stories for the Australian Catholic Truth Society Penny Publications series produced in 1910. She also wrote a romance novel and a history of Australia for Catholic schoolchildren.

Nellie Doran: A Story of Australian Home and School Life. Sydney: E. J. Dwyer, 1914. 240 pages. Not illus.

Nellie Doran is one of just two Australian girls’ school stories to be set in a Catholic school, the other being M. I. Little’s Dunham Days. Nellie Doran concerns the arrival of a new girl, fifteen-year-old Nellie Doran, at St. Mary’s Convent High School. The character of the new pupil was a popular device used in many girls’ and boys’ school stories in Australia. Nellie quickly becomes a favourite amongst her school fellows, arousing jealousy in one of the girls, Milcie, who had formerly been the most popular girl in the school. Milcie’s jealousy is increased when Nellie outshines her in music lessons. When Milcie discovers that she is related to Nellie she is ashamed to be related to a ‘bushie’, but during the Annual Retreat, a Catholic reflection exercise, she regrets her attitude towards Nellie and endeavours to be good to her. Nellie’s musical talent is discovered by a visiting German music teacher, Herr Hartmann, who offers her the opportunity to study in Europe, but Nellie declines the offer, choosing to remain with her family on their property, instead of pursuing possible fame and fortune. A preface by James Duhig, Archbishop of Brisbane, praises the tale of convent school life as presenting a beautiful moral. Nellie Doran faithfully depicts Catholic convent boarding school life, and the role religion played in these schools in the form of ceremonies and events including Shrove Tuesday, St Patrick’s Day, Lent, May Day, the Retreat and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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