Dame Mary Gilmore (1865–1962) was a poet and journalist. A prolific writer and socialist, she became known for radical poetry about workers and war. In 1992, Mary became featured on the Australian $10 note.
Born in rural New South Wales, Mary became a teacher when she was 16 and began work at Wagga Wagga Public School. She worked there until 1885. She soon began teaching in Silverton, new the mining town of Broken Hill, where she started writing poetry and developing her socialist views.
In 1890, Mary moved to Sydney. She began a relationship with Henry Lawson, who influenced her work. Alfred Stephens, literary editor of The Bulletin, published her verse, helping to establish her reputation as a poet who championed the worker.
Mary moved to New Australia, a socialist idealist communal settlement established in Paraguay in 1896. The settlement failed by 1900 and the family returned to Australia in 1902, via Buenos Aires and England.
Mary became the women’s editor of The Worker – the Australian Workers’ Union’s newspaper – in 1908, where she argued for better working conditions for women and improved treatment of children and Indigenous Australians. She also advocated for the White Australia Policy.
In 1910, her first volume of poetry was published. She continued to write at a prolific pace – she published six volumes of poetry and three volumes of prose before 1940.
In 1937, Mary was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She was the first person to receive the award for contributions to literature. She wrote No Foe Shall Gather Our Harvest, a patriotic verse inspired by World War II, in 1940. It would become one of her best known poems – it features on the Australian $10 note.
Following the war, Mary continued publishing her work. Her later years were marked by great public esteem. She died on 3 December, 1962. She received a state funeral – the first for a writer since Henry Lawson died in 1922.