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Cusack, Dymphna (1902 - 1981)

AM

Born
21 September 1902
Wyalong, New South Wales, Australia
Died
19 October 1981
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation
Author, Cultural Commentator, Political activist, Social activist and Teacher
Alternative Names
  • Cusack, Ellen Dymphna (Nell) (birth name)
  • Freehill, Dymphna (married name)

Summary

Dymphna Cusack was one of Australia's most prolific and translated writers. Educated at St Ursula's College, Armidale she won an Exhibition and Teaching Scholarship to the University of Sydney, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma of Education. While at the University of Sydney, she developed life-long friendships with fellow authors Florence James and Christina Stead, and lawyer Marie Byles. After graduating she worked as a teacher until her early retirement in 1944 due to ill-health.

Cusack's literary career took off in 1935 when her first novel, Jungfrau, was published to critical acclaim. A further eleven novels, seven plays, three travel books, two children's books and one non-fiction book followed. Two of her novels were collaborations: Pioneers on Parade (1939) with Miles Franklin; and Come In Spinner (1951) with Florence James.

Cusack's books were translated into over 30 languages worldwide, making her one of Australia's most translated authors. Her anti-bomb play, Pacific Paradise (1955), written in response to the United State's atomic tests on Bikini Atoll, sealed her reputation across Asia, Eastern Europe and the Pacific.

During the 1950s and 1960s Cusack spent long periods overseas with her partner (later husband) Norman Randolph Freehill, a journalist and founding member of the Community Party of Australia. After returning to Australia in 1962 she became associated with Faith and Hans Bandler, leaders of the Aboriginal rights movements.

In 1963 Cusack was a foundation member of the Australian Society of Authors. In 1975 she was named Woman of the Year by the Union of Australian Women. In 1976 she refused the Order of the British Empire due to her republican ideals, but in 1981, soon before her death, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her contribution to Australian literature.

Details

The following list represents some of Cusacks more important publications:

Novels

Jungfrau (1936)
Pioneers on Parade (1939), with Miles Franklin
Come In Spinner (1951), with Florence James
Say No to Death (1951)
Southern Steel (1953)
The Sun in Exile (1955)
Heat Wave in Berlin (1961)
Picnic Races (1962)
Black Lightning (1964)
The Sun is Not Enough (1967)
The Half-Burnt Tree (1969)
A Bough in Hell (1971)

Plays

Shallow Cups (1934)
Red Sky at Morning (1942)
Morning Sacrifice (1943)
Three Australian Three Act Plays (1950), comprising Comets Soon Pass, Shoulder the Sky, and Morning Sacrifice
The Golden Girls (1955)
Pacific Paradise (1963)

Travel books

Chinese Women Speak (1958)
Holidays Among the Russians (1964)
Illyria Reborn (1966)

Children's stories

Kanga-Bee and Kanga-bo (1945)
Four Winds and a Family (1947), with Florence James

Non-Fiction

Caddie, the Story of a Barmaid (1953), edited and introduced only

Biography

Norman Freehill with Dymphna Cusack, Dymphna Cusack, T. Nelson, West Melbourne (Vic.), 1975

Dymphna Cusack, A window in the dark, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1991, introduced and edited by Debra Adelaide

Events

1963
Helped establish the Australian Society of Austhors
1975
Named Woman of the Year by the Union of Australian Women
1976
Refused to accept the Order of the British Empire due to her republican ideals
1981
Appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her contribution to Australian literature

Sources used to compile this entry: Middlemiss, Perry, 'Dymphna Cusack (1902-81)', in Australian Authors, 2006, http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/cusackd/cusackd.html; North, Marilla, 'Dymphna Cusack (1902-1981)', in Samuels, Selina (ed.), Australian Writers, 1915-1950, Gale Group, Detroit, 2002, pp. 52-62; North, Marilla, 'Cusack, Ellen Dymphna (Nell) (1902 - 1981)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A170280b.htm.

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Archival resources

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • Florence James - papers, 1890-1993, 1890 - 1993, MLMSS 5877; James, Florence (1902 - 1993); Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details
  • Miles Franklin papers, mainly literary manuscripts, [1900-1954?], 1900 - 1954, MLMSS 445; Franklin, Stella Maria ( Marian) Sarah Miles (1879 - 1954); Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

National Archives of Australia, Canberra Office

National Archives of Australia, National Office

National Archives of Australia, Sydney Office

  • Correspondence with Playwrights Dymphna Cusack [Box 63], 1940, SP1558/2; National Archives of Australia, Sydney Office. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Franklin, Miles, 1879-1954, correspondence and literary papers, 1887 - 1954, Mfm G 247427-27477; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
  • Pacific paradise, 1955, 1955, NLA MS 1843; Cusack, Dymphna (1902 - 1981); National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
  • Papers of Donald Crick, 1955-1993, NLA MS 7408; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
  • Papers of Dymphna Cusack (1937-1983, 1902 - 1983, NLA MS 4621; Cusack, Dymphna (1902 - 1981); National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
  • Papers of Nancy Cato, 1939 - 1995, MS 757; Cato, Nancy (1917 - 2000); National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

Isobelle Barrett Meyering

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