Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead. Creative Section

‘A Short Time Before Her Death’


  • Kiera Lindsey University of Technology Sydney



Adelaide Ironside, archival traces, speculation, historical narrative


This Creative Matters piece is inspired by five objects in the archives of the colonial artist, Adelaide Ironside (1831–1867), which relate to her dying and death. In addition to two letters, one of which was the last Adelaide wrote before she died; the other by her mother shortly afterwards, I have drawn inspiration from the trunk the Ironsides took with them to Europe and which returned to Australia after their deaths and remains in the possession of her descendants. I have also referred to an obituary that was published the Athenaeum and a lost artwork by Ironside entitled ‘The Pilgrim of Art’, which depicts mother and daughter. The central focus of this work is, however, the only confirmed photograph we have of Adelaide Ironside, which was taken, a note in her archive suggests, ‘a short time before her death’. In this creative piece, I experiment with how such archival objects can be used to speculate and evoke the final moments of a biographical subject’s life in historical narrative.

Author Biography

Kiera Lindsey, University of Technology Sydney

Kiera Lindsey is a Senior Research Fellow conducting an Australian Research Council grant on speculative biography and historical craft at the University of Technology Sydney. Her first speculative biography, The Convict’s Daughter (Allen & Unwin) was published in 2016; she is currently working on a second, about the colonial artist Adelaide Ironside (Allen & Unwin), and a co-edited collection on Speculative Biography (Routledge, forthcoming 2021). Lindsey has presented masterclasses nationally and internationally, been a regular guest on ABC Radio National and served as an on-camera historian with Foxtel and ABC. She is an executive member of the History Council of New South Wales. E-mail:





Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead. Creative Section