She is one of the most familiar faces in Australia, but who is she?
Together we'll explore the life and influence of Dame Mary Gilmore.
Mary Jean Cameron was born on the 16th of August, 1865 in Cotta Walla, New South Wales. Her parents, Donald and Mary Ann decided to move to Wagga Wagga the following year, where they purchased a property adjoining the Beatties, Mary Ann's parents.
In her early teens, Mary began working as an unofficial pupil-teacher and by the age of 16, she had qualified to become a probationary pupil-teacher at the 'Superior Public School' in Wagga Wagga. Mary pursued her career in education for the next decade, passing the IIIA teachers' examination and working in a number of New South Wales schools.
One notable aquaintance of Gilmore's was the iconic Australian writer and poet, Henry Lawson. They shared a close relationship between 1890 and 1895, and Gilmore even claims to have rejected his hand in marriage. Henry Lawson is no stranger to the Australian ten dollar banknote as he was featured on the original paper banknote in circulation between 1966 and 1993.
In 1908 she became an editor at 'The Worker'; a publication of the 'Australian Workers' Union', Australia's most powerful trade union. As the first female member, Gilmore took the opportunity to campaign for working women and for improved Indigenous rights. 'The Worker' became Gilmore's regular platform for her journalism. Gilmore published her first volume of poetry 1910. Her success was immediately felt and she quickly became one of the most widely read poets in Australia.
Gilmore's tireless efforts became widely recognised and appreciated. In 1937, she was the first person ever appointed as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to literature. During World War II, she would continue to write patriotic verse, strengthening her image as an Australian icon. In her later life, she was regularly honoured for her contribution and was immortalised in the controversial work of painter William Dobell.
I hope you have enjoyed taking a look into the life and legacy of Dame Mary Gilmore and understand why we all pay tribute to her everyday.
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