‘Take me as you find me … I am not ashamed of being myself’

This month for LGBT+ History Month, we are pleased to launch the newly catalogued Amy Dillwyn Collection (ref. DC6). Amy Dillwyn (1845-1935) was a pioneering female industrialist, novelist, social justice campaigner, and, according to Professor Kirsti Bohata, ‘a queer writer of international significance’’.  

Photograph of Amy Dillwyn and dog from the papers of David Painting, courtesy of Kirsti Bohata

The Amy Dillwyn papers include –

  • Amy’s handwritten journals  (1863-1917)
  • a copy of one of her literary works – ‘The Two Gardens’ [1872]
  • correspondence with relatives 
  • a scrapbook with newspaper cuttings about herself that she compiled (1901-1911)

Dillwyn’s novels (such as Jill, 1884) explore romance/love between women, an early example of lesbian fiction in print. Her own journals [ref. DC6/1] also give details about her relationship with Olive Talbot –  

‘When in 1872 Amy Dillwyn began to refer to her friend, Olive Talbot, as her ‘wife’ in her private diaries, the term ‘lesbian’ was not available. In later life Dillwyn would come to relish what she called her ‘difference’ which she accentuated by her unconventional dress, her habit of smoking a cigar in public and her outspoken independence.’

Professor Kirsti Bohata ‘The Life and Fiction of Amy Dillwyn

However Amy Dillwyn may have viewed herself, or how she was viewed by others, it is clear that she did not conform to conventions of her time. We hope that her collection will provide more of an insight into this inspirational figure.  

To find out more  

‘The Pieces of Me’ by Mandy Lane. A response to the deliberate self-excision of sections from Amy Dillwyn’s diaries. Photograph copyright Mandy Lane.

Coming up

We are looking forward to the touring production by Lighthouse Theatre, ‘The Many Lives of Amy Dillwyn’ coming to Swansea’s Taliesin Theatre, 7.30pm, 24th Feb 2022. It will be followed by a discussion with Professor Kirsti Bohata.


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