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An obituary of best-selling author Colleen McCullough that focused on her "plain" looks and weight has sparked a Twitter hashtag of parodies.

McCullough, who died this week at age 77, was best known for the novel "The Thorn Birds," which was made into a film and a miniseries. Before she launched her literary career, she studied neurophysiology and taught at Yale University.

She was the most popular author in her homeland, Australia, but a leading newspaper there opened its obituary with a description that drew cries of sexism.

"Colleen McCullough, Australia’s best selling author, was a charmer," the story read.

"Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: 'I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.'"

Within a day, the hashtag #fatladyobit had sprung up on Twitter, with send-ups of the Australian's send-off:

The hashtag was started by Seattle-based freelance writer Ijeoma Oluo, who said she couldn't believe her eyes when she first read the obit.

"It thought it was a joke because it was so appallingly offensive," she said. The point of the hashtag, she said, is to show "what it looks like when we write about women this women."

"It took off," she said. "People said it was really cathartic."

The Australian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Image: Australian Author Colleen McCullough
Colleen McCullough poses in a hotel room to promote a recent book in April, 1997 in Paris.Ulf Andersen / Getty Images