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Ivy Bright Philomena (Mena) Calthorpe (1905–1996)

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Ivy Bright [known as Mena (Philomena)] Calthorpe, née Field (1905-1996) writer, editor, teacher and social justice activist 

Birth: 3 June 1905 at Goulburn, New South Wales, daughter of Francis Arthur Field (1881?-1959), drover, and Ivy Pearl, née Anderson (1885-1975). Marriage: 1934 at Goulburn to William Harold (Bill) Calthorpe (1909-1970), a fitter and turner. Death: 28 April 1996 in hospital at Waterfall, NSW. 

  • Educated at St Brigid’s school and Our Lady of Mercy College, Goulburn. Took up the name given at her confirmation – Philomena.
  • Taught in country schools for a number of years.
  • Encouraged to write by T. J. Hebblewhite, editor of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post, became significant working-class author, writing 'poetically and with sensitivity about the struggles of Australia's early settlers, the depressed conditions of early factory hands and the political struggles of Australian workers'. Also an inspirational creative-writing teacher and fighter for social justice.
  • Moved to Sutherland shire with husband in 1950.
  • Active in the Australian Labor Party’s Caringbah branch. Also prominent in the peace movement and the women’s movement.
  • Her novel The Dyehouse, reputedly short-listed for the Miles Franklin award in 1961, was republished in 1982. Other books included The Defectors (1969) and The Plain of Ala (1989).
  • Memorial tree planted in Sutherland Shire Park.

obituary, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 1996, p 31; Mena Calthorpe papers 1951-1994, ML MSS 3088, State Library of New South Wales; photo and biographical details Sutherland Shire Local History: and:

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Citation details

'Calthorpe, Ivy Bright Philomena (Mena) (1905–1996)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 April 2024.

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