Main site navigation

Fortune, Mary Helena (c. 1833 - c. 1910)

c. 1833
Belfast, Ireland
c. 1910
Alternative Names
  • Waif Wander (pseudonym)


Fortune was born in Belfast, emigrating to Montreal, Canada, with her father. In 1851 she married Joseph Fortune. Her father later migrated to Australia to work on the goldfields, and she followed him there, with her first son, in 1855. She was briefly married again in Australia, to a mounted constable, Percy Brett. Fortune used the pseudonym 'Waif Wander' when she began to publish stories in the new, Melbourne-based Australian Journal in 1865. Early on, she co-wrote some detective fiction with James Skipp Borlase; her anonymously-published 'Mystery and Murder' was later reprinted by Borlase in his collection, The Night Fossickers (1867), under his own name. Fortune went on to contribute well over 400 short stories, as well as serialised novels and journalism, to the Australian Journal in a literary career spanning more than forty years. She is celebrated as one of the first women crime fiction writers in the world; a collection of her detective fiction, The Detective's Album: Tales of the Australian Police, was published by Clarson, Massina and Co. in 1871. Even so, she died in obscurity; the exact place and date of her death are unknown.

Published resources

See also

Rachael Weaver