Kiddle, Margaret (1914–1958)

views updated

Kiddle, Margaret (1914–1958)

Australian historian. Born Margaret Loch Kiddle in South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia, on September 10, 1914; died on May 3, 1958; daughter of John Beacham (a solicitor) and Mauna Loa (Burrett) Kiddle; attended Melbourne Church of England Girls' Grammar School; University of Melbourne, B.A., 1937, Diploma of Education, 1938, M.A., 1947; never married; no children.

An Australian, born and raised in South Yarra, Melbourne, Margaret Kiddle was awakened to history by her social studies teacher in grammar school. She received both her baccalaureate and master's degrees from the University of Melbourne, where she later taught history. Kiddle first published a series of children's books, beginning with Moonbeam Stairs in 1945. It was followed by West of Sunset (1949), and The Candle (1950). A biography, Caroline Chisholm , which served as Kiddle's master's thesis, was published in 1950.

Kiddle's most acclaimed work, Men of Yesterday (1961), traces the history of the western district of Victoria in the 19th century, from the native Aboriginal inhabitants to the large-scale immigrations in the 1830s and 1840s, and is based largely on the records of pioneer families. The work, started in 1949, was finished just six weeks before Kiddle died of congenital kidney disease in 1958. The manuscript was edited for publication by Kiddle's university colleagues. During the nine years that Kiddle labored on the project, she spent one year on a fellowship at the Australian National University and also toured the UK with her sister, seeking papers and records of descendants of the original western settlers. Lindsay Gardiner , in 200 Australian Women, describes Kiddle's work as rich in its use of voices from the past. "Here the voices are those not only of the men but also of the women of yesterday, revealed from their letters and diaries in their loneliness, their frailties, their determination and their triumphs." The book, considered a major contribution to Australian historical research and writing, sold 15,000 copies in 20 years. The University of Melbourne continues to honor the memory of Margaret Kiddle by awarding an annual prize in her name for the best final Honors essay in history.


Radi, Heather, ed. 200 Australian Women. NSW, Australia: Women's Redress Press, 1988.

Wilde, William H., Joy Horton, and Barry Andrews, ed. Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts