Matilda Ann Aston, better known as Tilly Aston, was a blind Australian writer and teacher, who founded the Victorian Association of Braille Writers, and later went on to establish the Association for the Advancement of the Blind, with herself as secretary. She is remembered for her achievements in promoting the rights of vision impaired people.
Tilly was born in the town of Carisbrook, Victoria in 1873, the youngest of eight children born to Edward Aston, bootmaker, and his wife, Ann. Vision impaired from birth, she was totally blind by the age of 7. Her father died in 1881. Six months later, through a chance meeting, she met Thomas James, a miner who had lost his sight in an industrial accident and who had become an itinerant bllind missionary. He taught her to read braille and soon after, the Rev. W. Moss, who visited Carisbrook with the choir of the Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind, persuaded her to attend the school in St. Kilda, Melbourne, to further her education. She enrolled as a boarder on 29 June 1882. After successfully matriculating at the age of 16, Tilly became the first blind Australian to go to a university, enrolling for an Arts Degree from University of Melbourne. However, due to the lack of braille text books and "nervous prostration", she was forced to discontinue her studies in the middle of her second year. While convalescent, she tried to earn her living as a music-teacher, and realised the plight of blind people.
After leaving school, she lived with her mother and a brother in Melbourne until about 1913, when her mother died and her brother married. She then moved to a house of her own in Windsor, where she had a house-keeper-companion. She died there of cancer on 1 November 1947.
The Federal electorate Division of Aston in Melbourne's eastern suburbs and a street in the Canberra suburb Cook are named in her honour. A cairn was erected in her honour, a year after her death, by Carsibrook School and the Midlands Historical Society, and there is a sculpture in her honour in King's Domain, Melbourne.
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