Gilmore's memories are worth exploring at length, as they offer a rare and valuable insight into early Wagga history.
Mary Jean Cameron was born on 16 August 1865 at Cotta Walla near Goulburn, New South Wales. When she was one year old her parents, Donald and Mary Ann,
decided to move to Wagga Wagga to join her maternal grandparents, the Beatties, who had moved there from Penrith, New South Wales in 1866.
Her father obtained a job as a station manager at a property, Cowabbie 100 km north of Wagga. A year later, he left that job to become a carpenter, building homesteads on properties in Wagga, Coolamon, Junee, Temora and West Wyalong for the next 10 years. This itinerant existence allowed Mary only a spasmodic formal education; however she did receive some on their frequent returns to Wagga, either staying with the Beatties or in rented houses.
Her father purchased land and built his own house at Brucedale on the Junee Road, where they had a permanent home. She was then to attend, albeit briefly, Colin Pentland's private Academy at North Wagga Wagga and, when the school closed, transferred to Wagga Wagga Public School for two and a half years. At 14, in preparation to become a teacher, she worked as an assistant at her Uncle's school at Yerong Creek, New South Wales.
After completing her teaching exams in 1882, she accepted a position as a teacher at Wagga Wagga Public School where she worked until December 1885. After a short teaching spell at Illabo she took up a teaching position at Silverton near the mining town of Broken Hill. There Gilmore developed her socialist views and began writing poetry.
In 1890, she moved to Sydney, where she became part of the "Bulletin school" of radical writers. Although the greatest influence on her work was Henry Lawson it was A. G. Stephens, literary editor of The Bulletin, who published her verse and established her reputation as a fiery radical poet, champion of the workers and the oppressed.
She followed William Lane and other socialist idealists to Paraguay in 1896, where they had established a communal settlement called New Australia two years earlier. There she married Billy Gilmore in 1897. By 1902 the socialist experiment had clearly failed and the Gilmore returned to Australia, where they took up farming near Casterton, Victoria.
Gilmore's first volume of poetry was published in 1910, and for the ensuing half-century she was regarded as one of Australia's most popular and widely read poets. In 1908 she became women's editor of The Worker, the newspaper of Australia's largest and most powerful trade union, the Australian Workers Union (AWU). She was the Union's first woman member. The Worker gave her a platform for her journalism, in which she campaigned for better working conditions for working women, for children's welfare and for a better deal for the Indigenous Australians.
Later life Mary Gilmore, aged 83
By 1931 Gilmore's views had become too radical for the AWU, but she soon found other outlets for her writing. She later wrote a regular column for the Communist Party's newspaper Tribune, although she was never a party member herself. In spite of her somewhat controversial politics, Gilmore accepted appointment as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1937, becoming Dame Mary Gilmore. She was the first person to be granted this award for services to literature. During World War II she wrote stirring patriotic verse such as
Career Highlights Dame Mary Gilmore is the female face of the Australian $10 note.
When she died, aged 97, Dame Mary was given a State funeral by both the Federal and New South Wales state governments.
Her funeral was attended by all members of the New South Wales Cabinet.
Dame Mary donated the Archibald winning portrait painted by William Dobell in 1957 to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Aged 16 she became a pupil-teacher and in 1887, after passing the IIIA teachers' examination, Mary was appointed as a temporary assistant at Silverton Public School.
During the 1890s Mary became interested in social reform and supported the maritime and shearers' strikes. since she was employed as a teacher, Mary wrote under the pen names Em Jaycey, Sister Jaycey and Rudione Calvert.
At about this time she met and became a life-long friend of Henry Lawson.
Mary became the first women member of the Australian Workers Union, later became a member of the executive.
1895 join William Lane's New Australia Movement. She sailed to his Cosme settlement in Paraguay, arriving January 1896. and married shearer William Gilmore (1866-1945). their only son William was born, the family left the settlement visited Henry Lawson and family in London. then returned to Australia.
Mary was able to re-establish her writing and political links. In 1903 she was featured on the Bulletin's 'Red Page' and she helped with campaigning for the Labor Party in the 1906 and 1910 federal elections for the seat of Wannon. In 1908 Mary edited the woman's page of the Australian Worker, until 1931.
Mary Gilmores Poems:
1918 - Her second volume of poetry, The passionate heart, reflected her horrified reaction to World War I.
Sons of the mountains of Scotland,
In 1912 Mary and her son Billy went to live in Sydney while William joined his brother at Cloncurry in North Queensland. By 1918 her second book of poetry,
The passionate heart was published and her first book of prose, Hound of the road; The tilted cart followed in 1924. Mary's writing was regularly in print,
with her last collection of poetry, Fourteen Men, published in 1954 when Mary was 89.
Besides being a prolific writer,
Mary was also a founder-member of the Lyceum Club (Sydney), founder and vice-president of the
Fellowship of Australian Writers, member of the New South Wales Institute of Journalists
and life member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Dame Mary Gilmore's ashes were buried in her husband's
grave at Cloncurry cemetery.
In her later years, Gilmore, separated from her husband, moved to Sydney, and enjoyed her growing status as a national literary icon. Before 1940 she published six volumes of verse and three editions of prose. After the war Gilmore published volumes of memoirs and reminiscences of colonial Australia and the literary giants of 1890s Sydney, thus contributing much material to the mythologising of that period. Dame Mary Gilmore died in 1962, aged 97, and was accorded the first state funeral accorded to a writer since the death of Henry Lawson in 1922.
Mary Gilmore was born near Goulburn, New South Wales. She became a teacher and a writer and was editor of the women's pages of the Australian Worker newspaper for 23 years.
Bille Brown?s Bill and Mary
Posted on Tuesday, August 20 @ 17:57:15 EST by Kate Douglas
Optus Playhouse QPAC, Brisbane. 12-31 August 2002
"Australians," Mary Gilmore declares, "have short memories!" Her firm conviction - and Mary Gilmore is one for firm convictions - confided in William Dobell is that neither they nor their work are going to be remembered beyond their deaths. This yearning for a useful kind of immortality underpins the action of Bille Brown's Bill and Mary. It is with an embarrassed sense of shame that I have to confess here that my own awareness of Dame Mary Gilmore's marvellous life stretches little beyond an unconfident Trivial Pursuit nerd's recollections that, like the bloke who had something to do with wheat turning up on the old two dollar bill, Dame Mary's is the face on that other more recent bluish coloured note. In fact it is Dobell's portrait of Mary Gilmore that comprises part of the image of the Australian ten dollar note, and QTC's production of Bill and Mary is something of a restoration job in itself: a theatrical dusting-off of an Old Australian Master.
Dobell's commission to paint Gilmore's portrait serves as the dramatic context for Brown's play, which is in itself an affectionate and rigorous portrait of the two iconic Australians. At age 90, Gilmore agrees to sit for the internationally renowned artist because she likes his work, despite the recent controversy surrounding Dobell's rendering of a mutual friend, Joshua Smith. The Smith portrait depicted a distorted, elongated Smith, a likeness the subject abhorred. The ensuing fiasco ended their friendship. An apprehensive "get this right" tension is thus established from the outset. Over the course of the sittings, the increasingly physically frail but otherwise indefatigable Gilmore reveals more and more of her personal history, her private and political passions, and more than one diatribe on Australian public life, the nation's leadership, the cultural role of the Australian Left and the ALP, and the country's shameful treatment of its original inhabitants. The most interesting of these series of illuminations was, for me, Gilmore's participation in William Lane's New Australian socialist Utopian settlement in Paraguay, a doomed but fascinating social experiment during which Gilmore met her husband, William Gilmore, and after which Gilmore became a celebrated poet, prose writer, and social and political crusader.
In many ways, Brown's play is an old-fashioned one: part history lesson, part literary portrait, and therein perhaps lies its strength. There is no structural affectation, no arty flourish or contrivance here. Just good, hard, well-researched, intelligent slog. The piece requires similar unadorned slog from its two actors, and receives it in spades from its author, and the irrepressible Carol Burns. Burns' task, made all the more daunting by the shoes she had to step in to (the part was originally written for the late Ruth Cracknell,) is formidably surmounted in a brilliant individual performance. Burns inhabits Gilmore's 90-something physical form and revels in the range of emotional shifts that constitute the dominant part of the play's dramatic turns: grimly fatalistic, frail, determined and ultimately triumphant in a no-nonsense sort of way.
Gilmore's no-nonsense (Presbyterian?) personal ethic informs the show's interpretation from title ("Bill, Bill, Bill. I'm surrounded by Bills") through to design. Bruce McKinven's set is a life-like King's Cross apartment, and constitutes the entirety of Mary's (and our) physical world, opening up to a vast, empty gallery space at play's end. Matt Scott's lighting is characteristically sharp and sympathetic. Brett Collery's soundscape was functional, though subdued. Given that the set looked out onto the streets of Kings Cross, and the life "out there" was occasionally referred to, it would have been interesting to have more of this world intrude into the lives of the characters.
Given all the of the play's "Bills," there was ample opportunity for an indulgent presence from that other omniscient Bill, the play's author, but Brown's performance and presence on stage was poised and respectful, taking second place in many ways to the Dame and to the text itself. Only in the climax scene, during Gilmore's initial reaction to Dobell's portrait of her, and in the artist's defence of the work and his full admission of the dreadful physical and psychological toll the Joshua Smith fiasco took upon him, is Brown overly-restrained. In emotional terms, the defence and counterpoint doesn't quite match the accusation and initial thrust parried at him by Gilmore.
The individual scenes where Dobell addresses the audience directly from his own apartment to reveal personal qualms and responses to the work at hand were arguably superfluous. An interchange with a dog off-stage felt as though it was an extraneous pretext for a costume or set change elsewhere.
These reservations aside, Bill and Mary stand as a fine, intelligent piece of writing, and an engaging, informative night at the theatre. At $50 a head, it may limit the demographic that gets to see it, but if you're able to convince the box office you're 25 or under for the special student discount price - take full advantage.
Source http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Mary+Gilmore Gilmore, Mary Born Aug. 16, 1865, near Goulburn, New South Wales; died Dec. 3, 1962, in Sydney. Australian poet. Attracted by the ideas of the Utopian socialist W. Lane, Gilmore took part in the founding of the New Australia commune in Paraguay (1893-99). For 23 years she worked on the trade union newspaper The Worker. She wrote about the love of a woman and mother and about the joys and concerns of family life (the collection In the Family and Other Poems, 1910). Australia appears in Gilmore’s poetry, arrayed in its aboriginal legends and distinctive landscape; the trials and tribulations of its working people and the struggle of a courageous people for social justice are also depicted. Her collections include The Passionate Heart (1918), The Covered Wagon (1925), The Wild Swan (1930), Under the Wilgas (1932), and For the Australian Homeland (1945). In 1964 the union councils of Melbourne, Brisbane, and Newcastle established a Gilmore Prize for literature.
Guide to the Papers of Dame Mary Gilmore http://nla.gov.au/nla.ms-ms8766
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/07/25/1059084197443.html Mary Gilmore's Quest for Love and Utopia at the World's End
http://www.civicsandcitizenship.edu.au/cce/gilmore,9133.html Dame Mary Gilmore Dame Mary Gilmore (1865–1962) Mary Gilmore was born near Goulburn, New South Wales. She became a teacher and a writer and was editor of the women's pages of the Australian Worker newspaper for 23 years. In 1886, Gilmore went to Paraguay in South America to join a group of Australians who planned to set up a new colony where everyone would be equal and would work together. This colony was not successful. After some years, Gilmore came back to Australia with her husband. She spent the rest of her life writing, doing her editing work and fighting for people who needed help. These included Aboriginal people, children who were forced to work in factories and shearers who were being underpaid. She also fought hard for women's rights. In 1937 she was made Dame Mary Gilmore by King George VI. A suburb of Canberra is named after her and her picture is on the $10 note and on stamps
http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/using/copies/microform/feminist/gilmore.html Australian feminist manuscripts - Mary Jean Gilmore (1865?1962) Dame Mary Jean Gilmore (1865–1962) Papers, 1911–1950 ZML A3252-A3293/7; 49 volumes. Dame Mary Gilmore, writer, was born on 16 August 1865 at Mary Vale, Woodhouselee, near Goulburn, New South Wales. She worked as a schoolteacher at Silverton, Neutral Bay, and Stanmore, New South Wales. In 1895 she sailed for Paraguay, South America, to join William Lane's socialist settlement of 'Cosme'. She met William Gilmore there and married him in 1897. She returned to Australia in 1902. Back in Sydney, Mary was attracted to the busy literary and political scene but acknowledging her family responsibilities, went with her husband to Strathdownie, near Casterton in western Victoria, where her husband's parents owned a property. Mary Gilmore requested that the Australian worker should have a special page for women. In 1908 Mary was writing it herself. She was to edit the 'Women's page' until 11 February 1931. Mary also began campaigning for the Labor Party. Her first collection of poems, Marri'd, and other verses, simple colloquial lyrics, written mainly at Cosme and Casterton, commenting on the joys, hopes and disappointments of life's daily round, was published in 1910. The Gilmores left Casterton in 1912 — Mary and her son going to Sydney. Mary, and Will her husband, were rarely reunited in the years that followed. Over the years, Mary Gilmore campaigned in The worker and other available forums for a wide range of social and economic reforms such as votes for women, old-age and invalid pensions, child endowment and improved treatment of returned servicemen, the poor and deprived, and above all the Aboriginal peoples. To mark the considerable public acclaim for her literary and social achievements, she was appointed DBE in 1937. Mary Gilmore's significance is both literary and historical. Her best verses are among the permanent gems of Australian poetry. As patriot, feminist, social crusader and folklorist, she has now passed into Australian legend. (Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9: 1891–1939: Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1983, p.14-16)
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