Cusack, Dymphna (1902–1981)

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Cusack, Dymphna (1902–1981)

Australian novelist and playwright whose writings have been translated for publication in 31 countries. Name variations: LND; EDC. Born Ellen Dymphna Cusack on September 22, 1902, in Wyalong, New South Wales, Australia; died in 1981; daughter of Bridget (Crowley) Cusack and James Cusack (a sheep farmer); attended St. Ursula's College, 1917–20; University of Sydney, BA (with honors), 1925, diploma of education, 1925; married Norman Freehill (a journalist and writer); no children.

Awarded the West Australian drama prizes (1942) for Morning Sacrifice and (1943) Comets Soon Pass; awarded the Playwrights' Advisory Board drama prizes (1945) for Shoulder the Sky and (1946) Stand Still Time; received the Sydney Daily Telegraph novel award (1948) for Come in Spinner; given the Coronation Medal for services to Australian literature (1953); granted the British Arts Council Award for The Golden Girls; granted a Commonwealth literary fellowship, for Southern Steel.

Selected works:

Jungfrau (1936); (with Miles Franklin) Pioneers on Parade (1939); (play) Red Sky at Morning (1942), filmed (1944); (with Florence James) Come in Spinner (1951); Say No to Death (1953); Southern Steel (1953); The Sun in Exile (1955); Chinese Women Speak (1958); Heatwave in Berlin (1961); Picnic Races (1962); Holidays among the Russians (1964); Black Lightning (1964); (with James) Four Winds and a Family (1965); (with T. Inglis Moore and Barrie Oven-deu) Mary Gilmore: A Tribute (1965); Ilyria Reborn (1966); The Sun Is Not Enough (1967); The Half-Burnt Tree (1969); (play) The Golden Girls (1970); A Bough in Hell (1971); (with husband Norman Freehill) Dymphna Cusack (autobiography, 1975).

Ellen Dymphna Cusack's middle name—Celtic for singer or poet—foretold her career as a storyteller. She was born on a sheep run, near the True Blue gold mine, which her father staked and worked. Called Nell by her family, she was a sickly child and was sent to the preferable climate of Coom, Narrandera, to live with her namesake, her aunt Ellen Leahy .

Cusack enrolled at St. Ursula's convent school in Armindale and was often asked to lead the lower grades when a teacher was absent; the experience fostered her fondness for education. By accepting a scholarship to the University of Sydney, she was committed to teaching at least five years in the public schools; she began as an English and history teacher at Neutral Bay High School and gave nearly 20 years of service. Her retirement in 1944 was largely due to poor health, though her leaving was expedited by her candid remarks about the Department of Education's sexist treatment of the faculty. A Window in the Dark, edited by Debra Adelaide and published in 1991, contains Cusack's writings on her teaching career, but it reveals little personal information about the intensely private author.

Curzon, Irene (1896–1966)

Baroness Ravensdale. Born January 20, 1896; died in 1966; daughter of Mary Leiter Curzon (1870–1906) and Lord George Curzon (1859–1925, a diplomat); never married; no children.

Irene Curzon, who inherited her father's secondary title Baroness Ravensdale, never married. She devoted her days to women's rights, social causes, music, and travel.

Mosley, Cynthia (1898–1933)

English socialite. Name variations: Lady Cynthia Mosley. Born Cynthia Curzon on August 28, 1898; died in 1933; daughter of Mary Leiter Curzon (1870–1906) and Lord George Curzon (1859–1925, a diplomat); married Sir Oswald Mosley (1896–1980), 6th baronet.

Like her mother before her, Cynthia Mosley died young. She was only 35 at the time of her death in 1933. Cynthia's husband, Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, would marry Diana Mitford in 1936 and go on to become a national pariah.

Metcalfe, Alexandra (b. 1903)

English reformer. Name variations: Lady Alexandra Metcalfe. Born Alexandra Curzon in 1903; daughter of Mary Leiter Curzon (1870–1906) and Lord George Curzon (1859–1925, a diplomat); married Edward Dudley Metcalfe, equerry to the prince of Wales.

Lady Alexandra Metcalfe became an advocate for children's welfare throughout the world.

Dymphna Cusack began publishing while she was still teaching. Neuralgia forced her to dictate the first draft of her work, which was then typed and returned for editing and rewriting. Known as a progressive, her many books dealt with social injustice. Cusack, a lifelong member of Australia's Communist Party, died in 1981. Her manuscripts are held at the National Library of Australia.


Adelaide, Debra. "Introduction," in A Window in the Dark. Canberra, Australia: National Library of Australia, 1991.

Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

related media:

Caddie, based on Cusack's Caddie, the Story of a Barmaid, starring Helen Morse and Jack Thompson, directed by Donald Crombie, was filmed in 1976.

"Come in Spinner" was produced as a television series by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1989.

Red Sky at Morning was filmed in 1944.

Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts