Cora Minnett — pioneer SF writer and confidence trickster

In researching my Warren ancestors (see my previous post about them), I discovered that my great-great-great grandfather, James Warren (1804-1884) had a granddaughter Minnie Warren Jones, who achieved fame and infamy as a pioneering feminist science fiction author and confidence trickster.

Minnie Warren Jones, born in 1868, was the daughter of Eliza Warren (1840-1902) and James Jones (d. 1903). This account of her life (as far as it is known) and her literary career and other exploits draws heavily on the research of Steve Holland[1]. She took to the stage in 1888 using the name Cora Minnett Vane, after leaving school at age 19.

She married Adolphus J. Braggett (1864- ) in Sydney in 1892 under her real name[2] and left him a few years later. Adolphus married Teresa S McGinn in 1897, so presumably he and Minnie divorced[3]. She returned to the stage as Cora Minnett and “took companies round in Australia”. Her advance agent for her theatrical companies was a Mr. Cowell and he subsequently became her secretary and manager. In 1900, she published The Haunted Selection and other verses, a 310 page book of poetry. She also performed as a clairvoyant under the names Cora Vane and Cora Jones.

Cora went to England in January 1910 and was listed in the London telephone book as a Journalist and Author living at 117 St. George’s Square. In England she began writing novels under the names Cora Minnett and Pellew Harker and articles for Answers, the Ladies’ Home Journal and the Ladies’ Home Companion. She also placed an advertisement in the Daily Telegraph as a clairvoyante. She had cards prepared which described her as a mystical and dramatic entertainer and an aurapathic delineator—an occult study involving the aura emanations from the human body. In all she published six more book in 1911 and 1912.

One of her novels is of particular interest as a noted example of early feminist utopian science fiction[4]. There were large numbers of utopian novels written by and featuring women in late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century England and America, which expressed the growing frustration of women with their place in society, as essentially the legal property of men. In The Day After To-morrow (1911), America in 1975 has become a country where women enjoy equality[5]. Like other women writers of this genre, Cora Minnett did not envision a society where the structures of power had otherwise changed, and even imagined America had become a monarchy, and the homes of the future were still reassuringly Victorian[6].

Both her works published in 1912 deal with the occult. The Girdle of Kaf (1912) is a verse afterlife fantasy set in the eponymous district of Hell. As with many female writers of this period, she wrote under a pseudonym and also wrote as a male under the name Pellew Hawker.

Books as Cora Minnett
The Haunted Selection and other verses (verse). Melbourne, Victoria, McCarron, Bird & Co., c.1900.
The Day After To-morrow. London, F. V. White & Co., 1911.
Lucky, with Pellew Hawker, illus. A. MacNeill-Barbour. London, F. V. White & Co., 1911.
The Model Millionaire. London, W. J. Ham-Smith, 1911.
Fortune-Telling by Numbers. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1912.
The Girdle of Kaf (verse). London, W. J. Ham-Smith, 1912.

Books as Pellew Hawker
God Disposes. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1911.
Lucky, with Cora Minnett. See above.

She also developed a scheme to sell land in Australia to people interested in migrating there and began writing about it[7],. She rented an office at 110, The Strand, and produced a pamphlet entitled Australia, the Land of Golden Opportunity. She supposedly had plans to set up to set up a company called The Anglo-Australasian Development Company. However, only one company appears to have been established, The Federated Mining Development Company (West Africa) Ltd., in September 1913, which owned a £25 option in West Africa.

In September 1912, she went to Canada to supposedly to compare the prospects in Canada and Australia. It was later revealed that she had travelled to Canada with an introduction from Lord Strathcona for, she said, the purpose of studying life in Canada and writing a novel about it. She received payments from a number of people.

She got many people, some eminent, interested in her schemes, and some of these paid her money in return for promises. She also took advantage of the women’s suffrage movement by inviting women to her house, talking about the vote and then turning the conversation to business and persuading them to put money into her companies. A Mr. White invested £373 and subsequently sued her for the return of his money. Letters from Minnett to White referred to him as “Dearest” and “Darling”, signing herself “your loving partner, Cora” and writing “Yet, dearest, in the interest of our mutual business and actual future happiness, I must ask you for more money, and a considerable sum—at least £350.”

Another investor was to prove Cora Minnett’s downfall. Walter Robson was a cashier in the London office of the Commercial Bank of Australia[7],[8]. In 1912, she told him about her proposed company. In February 1913, Robson loaned her £500, expecting the money to be repaid in 1914 along with a share of the profits from her company; he then provided her with other sums of money in bank notes—£700, £1,000, £500, and £100.

Robson was stealing the money from the Bank and, although she and Herbert Cowell moved the money to various accounts, one in the name of Cora and Bertie Minnett, it was tracked down. When confronted with this, Cora and Herbert, presenting themselves as brother and sister, claimed that they had spent all but £100, for which Herbert wrote a cheque. The Commercial Bank of Australia took them to court in February 1914 to obtain an injunction restraining the defendants from dealing with the accounts. The lawyer for the Bank described Cowell as Minnett’s dupe who mascqueraded as her brother. She kept him and he was a dummy director in one of her companies.[9]

In his decision, in March 1914, the judge noted that Robson had been stealing from his employers before meeting Cora Minnett; although she must have known that something was wrong but refrained from making any inquiry. When asked to attend a meeting by the Commercial Bank of Australia, the couple had immediately withdrawn £500 and deposited it in Herbert’s name at another bank. The day after, they had withdrawn another £500 from another account and tried to set up an account in a company name, without success. The accounts were frozen. The judge also noted that it was not part of the case to decide whether the defendant’s schemes were only intended to get money out of her friends, although the Bank’s lawyer was of the opinion that the whole of Minnett’s career in England was on the borderland of criminal enterprise. Minnett subsequently went to the Court of Appeal but her application was turned down as she could not offer security for the costs of her appeal.

Curiously, Cora Minnett published a story and poem titled “The Failure” on 16 April 1914 in the Northern Territory Times and Gazette.[10].

The Failure.
By Cora Minnett.

Away in the silent bushland of Australia, there is a lonely hilltop covered with rough iron stone boulders, and grim gum trees, whose mild branches seem a fitting shade for the tragedy that once was played out beneath their muttering leaves.

At the foot of one huge gum stands a boulder on which a cross and a date have been rudely engraven — but no name. Beside the boulder is a mound covered with bush flowers and ferns, that nature’s warm hand has planted as though in solace for the pulseless broken heart sleeping beneath.

Who sleeps there, no one knows, but the people around the district call him the “Englishman”. He was found there one morning dead, with his fair head resting against the hard rock, and his blue tired eyes gazing curiously out to the West. A young man with delicately chiseled features, and hands that had not always been accustomed to work.Hhis clothes had once been good, but were old and worn. A “billy” and a “swag” were near, but nothing to tell who he was. Only the blue unclosed eyes and fair hair, to make the rough sympathisers realise he was English, and some last words written in that language. They found a sheet of paper clutched in one hand, on which some lines were traced: “I am tired and weary and broken. I want to lie down and rest. Oh, for wings, to drift out of this world, away beyond the clouds and the sun, somewhere, somewhere — to rest.”

They laid him to rest at the foot of the boulder, under the grim gum-tree; but people say that sometimes, in the summer dusk, a form is seen hovering above the nameless rock, with eyes that turn to the West.

Whether this be so or not I cannot say, but, strangely enough, when I heard the story, an irresistible impulse made me take a pencil, and write the following lines in an absolutely spontaneous manner, and with the impression that someone named “Jack Harvey” expressed the sentiments — certainly not myself. Possibly, they may convey a message from out of a long silence, for the date on the nameless rock is one in the early 90s:–

I am tired and weary and broken,
I want to lie down and rest.
The Sun in his gold and purple,
Is drifting out of the West.
And I — I’m looking and longing,
Longing to sink with his beams,
Borne to a wakeless oblivion,
Wrapped in those tender gleams.

For I’m tired and weary and broken –,
Broken on life’s hard facts.
Behind me a tuneless record,
Before me the old, worn tracks.
And I know them — Oh God — I know them,
My feet have touched every part,
Seeking some of life chances,
Fresh hope, each time, in my heart.

Seeking, and fighting, and hoping —
Deeming my chance nigh won,
Only to find fate pushed me
Back to where I’d begun.
And so I’m tired and weary,
I want to lie down and forget,
Forget there’s a world and people,
Forget there’s despair and regret.

O Clouds, that are rolling westward,
O Sun, that is mellowing low,
O Wind, that sways the big trees,
Take me away — where you go!

Is it a place where I can rest,
Where the touch of a tender hand
Would smooth the memory of life away,
And teach me to understand
Why I met only winter’s blight,
And failure’s weary fret?
O Winds, take me up in your arms tonight,
Let me sleep and forget. Let me sleep and forget.

According to Steve Holland[7], Cora Minnett was listed at her London address until 1918. She seems to have disappeared after that time and no-one has found any further information on her. I did not find any death records for her under her real name or any of her known aliases in Australia, England or the USA.


[1] Steve Holland (2009). Cora Minnett. Bear Alley Books blog. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 25 Feb 2023 from

[2] (2023). Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950, NSW Pioneer Index – Federation Series 1889 – 1918. Adolphus J Braggett and Minnie W Jones, Registration Number 857.

[3] (2023). Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950, NSW Pioneer Index – Federation Series 1889 – 1918. Adolphus J Braggett and Teresa S McGinn, Registration Number 4832.

[4] John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls and Graham Sleight. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Third Edition, (accessed 27 Feb 2023)

[5] Lewes, D. Middle-Class Edens: Women’s Nineteenth-Century Utopian Fiction and the Bourgeois Ideal. Utopian Studies, 4: 1, 1993, pp. 14–25. JSTOR, Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.

[6] Albinski NB. The Laws of Justice, of Nature and of Right: Victorian Feminist Utopias. Pp50-68. In Jones LF, Goodwin SMW (eds.). Feminism, Utopia, and Narrative, pp 50-68. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1990.

[7] Sequel to Bank Frauds (1914, March 2). Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954), p. 5 (Daily). Retrieved February 27, 2023, from

[8] Cashier’s Lapse. (1914, March 4). Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser (Vic.: 1857 – 1867; 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from

[9] Cora Minnett Sued. (1914, March 5). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), p. 15. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from

[10] Cora Minnett. The Failure. News & Notes (1914, April 16). Northern Territory Times and Gazette (Darwin, NT: 1873 – 1927), p. 15. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from

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