Culture Buff

Dame Mary Gilmore working from home in 1952

16 May 2020

9:00 AM

16 May 2020

9:00 AM

She lived in a flat in Kings Cross, was a lifelong socialist, a regularly observant Presbyterian, a Dame of the British Empire, and a great-great aunt of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Born Mary Jean Cameron (1865-1962), she was the daughter of a Scot who emigrated with his father and three uncles settling in the Goulburn area. She was a teacher for several years, then in 1893 joined the New Australia settlement in Paraguay and married a fellow settler William Gilmore. In 1898, Mary gave birth to a son, also William. They left the settlement in 1899.

Back in Australia, although attracted to the literary and political scene in Sydney, Mary went with her husband to the Casterton district. She pursued her literary interests by mail and was first published in the Bulletin in 1903. Three years later, she began writing for the Australian Worker, editing its women’s page until 1931. Her first collection of poetry, Marri’d, was published in 1910. Mary and her son moved to Sydney in 1912 .

Immersed in literary activities, Mary published a number of collections of poetry and prose as her fame and influence grew. She accepted the DBE in 1937. During WWII she enjoyed enormous popularity with poems published in the Women’s Weekly: No Foe Shall Gather Our Harvest (1940) and the passionate Singapore (1942). Mary romanticised both colonial life and her links with aborigines but nevertheless contributed to our national view of ourselves.

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