The Society was founded in 1889 by Lady Teresa Hamilton, wife of the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Robert Hamilton. The group was originally called the Nil Desperandum Society (a Latin phrase meaning 'never despair'). Following Lady Hamilton's resignation as President in November 1892 the Society was reorganised under new rules and the name was changed to the Hamilton Literary Society. The Society is now the oldest continuing literary society in Australia and its aim is to promote friendship between women who share a love of reading and writing. Members are required to present (and afterwards discuss) at least one paper per year. Traditionally, the President of the Society is the wife of the current Governor General of Tasmania.