- Also known as
primary name: Gilmore, Mary
- individual; academic/intellectual; journalist/critic; Australian; Female
- Life dates
- Dame Mary Jean Gilmore, born August 1865, was a socialist writer and journalist whose father (Donald Cameron, farmer) had migrated from Fort William, and her mother’s family (Mary Ann Beattie) from Ireland. She temporarily became pupil-teacher at the Superior Public School, Wagga Wagga at 16, but resigned due to ill health in 1884. Nevertheless she came back to re-employment in 1886, and continued transferring schools through appointment or passing exams. In 1891 she was part of Stanmore Superior Public School, involving herself with the radicalism of the day. She claims though her life to be the first executive in the Australian Workers’ Union, assisting in the New Australian movement.
She left Sydney in 1895, resigning from teaching, and met her husband at the Cosme settlement in Paraguay, marrying him (William Alexander Gilmore (1866-1945), a Victorian shearer) in 1897. She bore her only child in August 1898, and together the family moved first to Rio Gallegos (1900), then London (1902), arriving back in Australia that same year.
She moved to Strathdownie with family, but managed to keep correspondence with the ‘Bulletin’ paper, and later, moving to Casterton, became editor for the ‘Women’s Page’ in the ‘Australian Worker’ from 1908-1931. She campaigned in the Labor Party, and had her first collection of poems ‘Marri’d, and other Verses’ published in 1910. To keep the security of her editor’s position, Mary and her son William moved to Sydney in 1912 whilst her husband moved to the land in the Queensland district.
Through her time in Sydney with the platform of the ‘Worker’, her poetry, and her other forums of the literature medium, Mary Gilmore campaigned for a range of social and economic reforms such as rights of women, pensions, improved treatment of workers, the poor and the Aboriginals. In her poetry she claimed back the pioneering spirit with her own radical thoughts, and she often encouraged young writers. Her public acclaim made her D.B.E in 1937 and celebrated as a public figure. Her patriotism ensued during World War II with the threat on Australia, and from 1952 she was associated with a Communist newspaper due to a pacifistic beliefs and anger to government regime. She published her final volume of poetry, ‘Fourteen Men’ in 1954, at ninety years of age. In her last years her birthday was made a public display, celebrating her literacy, and her fame reached awards, schools, roads, and via the media. She died in December 1962, and a state funeral was held at St Stephen’s Presbyterian church, Macquarie Street.
- W. H. Wilde, 'Gilmore, Dame Mary Jean (1865–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gilmore-dame-mary-jean-6391/text10923, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 December 2014.