Dymphna Cusack

Ellen Dymphna Cusack AM (21 September 1902 – 19 October 1981) was an Australian author and playwright.[1]

Dymphna Cusack

Dymphna Cusack, 1947.jpg
Dymphna Cusack, 1947
Born(1902-09-21)September 21, 1902
DiedOctober 19, 1981(1981-10-19) (aged 79)
NationalityAustralian
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
OccupationAuthor, playwright

Personal lifeEdit

Born in Wyalong, New South Wales, Cusack was educated at Saint Ursula's College, Armidale, New South Wales[2] and graduated from the University of Sydney with an honours degree in Arts and a diploma in Education. She worked as a teacher until she retired in 1944 for health reasons. Her illness was confirmed in 1978 as multiple sclerosis.[1]

CareerEdit

 
Dymphna Cusack memorial plaque in Sydney Writers Walk at Circular Quay

Cusack wrote twelve novels (two of which were collaborations), eleven plays,[3] three travel books, two children's books and one non-fiction book. Her collaborative novels were Pioneers on Parade (1939) with Miles Franklin, and Come In Spinner (1951) with Florence James.[4]

The play Red Sky at Morning was filmed in 1944, starring Peter Finch.[5] The biography Caddie, the Story of a Barmaid, to which Cusack wrote an introduction and helped the author write, was produced as the film Caddie in 1976. The novel Come In Spinner was produced as a television series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1989, and broadcast in March 1990.[6]

FamilyEdit

Her younger brother, John, was also an author, writing the war novel They Hosed Them Out under the pseudonym John Beede, which was first published in 1965, republished in 2012.[7]

ActivismEdit

Cusack advocated social reform and described the need for reform in her writings. She contributed to the world peace movement during the Cold War era as an antinuclear activist.[1] Her husband Norman Freehill was a member of the Communist Party, unlike Dymphna Cusack who remained a liberal progressive humanist in all her writing and activism. She had been wrongly called a Communist prior to the first doctoral dissertation on Cusack being published, which used extensive archival research in Berlin, Potsdam and Canberra to prove that she was a left-leaning feminist and not a Party member. [8]

Contribution and recognitionEdit

Cusack was a foundation member of the Australian Society of Authors in 1963. She had refused an Order of the British Empire,[1] but was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1981 for her contribution to Australian literature.[9] Cusack was instrumental in promoting the democratic, progressive traditions of her much loved country, both as a sought-after celebrity speaker in Australia as well as a cultural commentator during her long stays in Europe from the 1940s to the 1970s.[10]

"Cusack was a foundation member of the Australian Society of Authors in 1963. Hers was a socially engaged, writerly stance shared by her famed mentor Miles Franklin and other great names in Australian literary history. In 1998, the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), based in Geneva, honoured Dymphna Cusack's role in postwar European culture and politics by acknowledging the first doctoral thesis written on the author. The IFUW created "The Australia Award" for Dr. Tania Peitzker's literary and cultural studies analysis of Cusack, funded by the University of Potsdam, Germany."[11]

In 2011, Cusack was one of 11 authors, including Elizabeth Jolley and Manning Clark, to be permanently recognised by the addition of brass plaques at the Writers' Walk, Sydney.[12]

In 2016, Dymphna Cusack's legacy experienced a second renaissance when Marilla North republished her 2001 biography "Yarn Spinners" and took the new trilogy entitled Come in Dymphna - dedicated to Cusack, Miles Franklin and Florence James - on a national book tour throughout 2017.[13] The Yarn Spinners website explains:

"Yarn Spinners is the first volume in Marilla North’s biographical trilogy Come in Dymphna, which reanimates the life and times of Australian writer Dymphna Cusack for a contemporary audience. Inspired by the letters exchanged between Dymphna Cusack, Florence James, Miles Franklin, and their contemporaries, North has woven together the threads of history that shaped these women’s lives and brought alive the struggles they encountered as they fought for human rights and social justice … and forged a path for Australian women writers in a male-dominated world.

First and foremost, however, Yarn Spinners expresses the ‘heart and soul’ of the powerful friendships that grew between these strong, passionate and witty women as they corresponded, collaborated and supported one another. Together and individually they produced an extraordinary body of work that tackled issues central to the creation of a civilised and humane society. Their stories are becoming increasingly more relevant as we face the challenges of the 21st Century." [14]


PlaysEdit

  • Safety First, 1927
  • Shallow Cups, 1933
  • Anniversary, 1935
  • Red Sky at Morning, performed 1935; published 1942
  • Morning Sacrifice, 1943
  • Comets Soon Pass, 1943
  • Call Up Your Ghosts, with Miles Franklin, 1945
  • Pacific Paradise, 1955

NovelsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Marilla North (2007), "Cusack, Ellen Dymphna (Nell) (1902–1981)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 18 May 2015
  2. ^ [1] Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, middlemiss.org; retrieved 22 March 2008.
  3. ^ Croft, Julian, 1941-; Bedson, Jack; Campbell Howard Collection; University of New England. Centre for Australian Language and Literature Studies; Dixson Library (University of New England) Australian plays in manuscript (1993), The Campbell Howard annotated index of Australian plays 1920-1955 / compiled and edited by Jack Bedson and Julian Croft, Centre for Australian Language and Literature Studies, University of New England.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) pp.68-78.
  4. ^ Spender (1988) p. 219
  5. ^ "Red Sky at Morning (1944)". ImDb. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  6. ^ IMDB - Come in Spinner (1990)
  7. ^ Cusack, J.B. (2012), They Hosed Them Out, Wakefield Press, ISBN 9781743051061
  8. ^ Peter Coleman, "Memento Moscow", Weekend Australian, 16–17 January 1999, Review, p. 10; Tania Peitzker, "Einleitung".The Cold War Author & Humanist Dymphna Cusack: The first Doctoral Dissertation on this Australian cultural phenomenon. Kindle Edition. University of Potsdam: 2015. [2]
  9. ^ "It's an Honour – 26 January 1981". Australian Government. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  10. ^ Peitzker, Tania. (2000) "Introduction." "Dymphna Cusack (1902–1981): a Feminist Analysis of Gender in her Romantic Realistic Texts." Potsdam: University of Potsdam.
  11. ^ The Cold War Author & Humanist Dymphna Cusack: The first Doctoral Dissertation on this Australian cultural phenomenon. Kindle Edition. University of Potsdam: 2015. [3]
  12. ^ "Tribute to Literary Greats on Sydney Writers’ Walk", 24 October 2011; retrieved 10 April 2012.
  13. ^ Elizabeth Webby, "Yarn spinners: A story of friendship, politics and a shared commitment to a distinctive Australian literature, woven through the letters of dymphna Cusack, Florence James, miles Franklin and their congenials [Book Review]". Sydney: Southerly, 2017. Vol 77 Issue 1; Book website, with a review by Mary Kostakidis, Journalist and Broadcaster, Member of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee. Accessed 11/11/2019 [4]
  14. ^ Marilla North, Website for "Yarn spinners: A story of friendship, politics and a shared commitment to a distinctive Australian literature, woven through the letters of Dymphna Cusack, Florence James, Miles Franklin and their Congenials". Blue Mountains NSW: Brandl & Schlesinger, 2016, 568 pp, pb, ISBN 9780994429605, RRP $39.95.

SourcesEdit

  • Dymphna Cusack bibliography
  • North, Marilla. (2007) "Cusack, Ellen Dymphna (Nell) (1902–1981)". Entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Accesssed 11/11/2019 [5]
  • North, Marilla. (2016) "Yarn spinners: A story of friendship, politics and a shared commitment to a distinctive Australian literature, woven through the letters of Dymphna Cusack, Florence James, Miles Franklin and their Congenials". Blue Mountains NSW: Brandl & Schlesinger.
  • North, Marilla. (2001) "Yarn Spinners: A Story in Letters", Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.
  • Spender, Dale (1988) Writing a New World: Two Centuries of Australian Women Writers, London: Pandora
  • Peitzker, Tania (2000). "Dymphna Cusack (1902–1981): a Feminist Analysis of Gender in her Romantic Realistic Texts". Potsdam: Uni Potsdam. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2008.