Ethel Turner
1872 - 1958

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Ethel Turner, one of Australia's most famous authors, produced a large number of volumes, from prior to the turn of the century until the 1940's. Although her stories are now rather dated, she enabled the children at that time, to gain a greater sense of what it was to be Australian. Turner has the ability to produce very realistic child characters portrayed as true individuals, with very definite personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Turner believed in the innate goodness of children as each of her characters portray. Even Lol, the little larrikin, the leader of a "push", aggravatingly mischievous, can wheedle his way into the affections of any adult, the assumption being that he is thoroughly good at heart (Saxby, 1969, p. 84). Her stories were enjoyed by adults and children alike, with action, drama and much sibling rivalry!

Ethel Turner was born in Yorkshire in 1872, the younger sister of Lilian - who would also go on to become a well known writer - and older sister to Rosie. They began life in England and then migrated to Australia with their widowed mother in c.1880. Three Little Maids, published in 1900 is partly autobiographical, based on the lives of the three girls at that time. Ethel attended Sydney Girls High School, along with another famous Australian author, Louise Mack, the two of whom remained friends for life. Both Lilian and Ethel were prolific writers as children, creating their own stories and magazines from an early age. In 1889 they began The Parthenon, a magazine in which Ethel, thanks to Lilian's insistance as the older sister, was made to write the children's pages. Thus began a great writing career that would span many decades. The first stories to appear were Gladys and the Fairies and later A Dreadful Pickle and A Girl Named Bobbie.


Ethel also kept a detailed diary for many years and in it wrote all of her thoughts and desires including, 'I do want fame - plenty of it' (Niall, 1979, p. 16). Fame is certainly what she got, but right from the beginning worked hard to obtain it. She often wrote under a pseudonym, including 'Princess Ida' after the character in Tennyson's The Princess, (Whom Ida Rentoul Outhwaite was named after). She worked for The Illustrated Sydney News, who were later taken over by Town and Country Journal, under the name 'Dame Durden' in their children's section and also had work published with the Bulletin and the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

In 1894, her first novel was published by Ward Lock in London, the now famous Seven Little Australians. It sold out within just a few weeks of being released in Sydney and went on to earn her five thousand pounds in its first year. Already Turner had the fame and furtune she desired. Seven Little Australians and it’s immediate sequel The Family at Misrule, 1895 (written in just five months) are concerned with the well respected Woolcot family, living on the outskirts of Sydney. Little Mother Meg also continued the story, but did not appear until 1902. These stories are typical of the ‘children should be seen, but not heard’ era. The children spend the majority of their time without any adult supervision, with Captain Woolcot only appearing at times when severe discipline is needed! Apart from being on hand to supply the occasional beating, Bunty about to cop a beating!!he very much leads his own life and allows the children to live theirs. The book also contains one of the most well remembered scenes from any Australian novel - the death of the mischievous and much loved Judy. This was a most unexpected turn in the plot and shows Turner's ability as a powerful story teller. Her description of the accident and her subsequent death are quite chilling, yet with touches of humour, expressing each child's individual reaction superbly. The two sequels although well received, lacked the strength of Seven Little Australians and paled in comparison to this now famous classic.

Turner was a prolific writer and continued to produce at least one novel nearly every year. On top of this she published numerous articles and short stories which appeared in newspapers and magazines in Australia as well as Britain. Despite her huge popularity in Britain, she chose to live in Australia rapidly becoming a national figure. Her books and stories continued to sell well, despite constant bickerings with her Ward Lock publishers. Ward Lock although a very large and successful publisher were also very conservative, Turner was constantly disatisfied with their handling of her works and wished to become known more as a writer about children than for children (Niall, 1979, p. 22). Disputes continued as did continuous criticism of her works, requesting sections be re-written, length be altered and titles be changed. Eventually Turner took her 1907 book, That Girl - described by Ward Lock as being too sombre - to Fisher Unwin. However, she felt they were again too similar to Ward Lock's style and thus sent her next four books to Hodder & Stoughton - namely Fair Innes, The Apple of Happiness, The Secret of the Sea and Flower 'o the Pine. Unfortunately her sales were not as strong with Hodder & Stoughton and in 1915 she returned to Ward Lock.

The Cub was the first of her 'war' novels and became the first of a trilogy with Captain Cub appearing in 1917 and Brigid and the Cub in 1919.


She married Herbert Curlewis in 1896 and two years later gave birth to a daughter, Jean and in 1901 a son, Adrian. Jean was later to follow in her morther's footsteps and become an author and Adrian followed his father's, both of whom became judges.

List of Works
This does not include magazine or newspaper articles and stories

1894, Seven Little Australians, illustrated by A. J. Johnson, Ward, Lock & Bowden, London, UK.
1895, The Family at Misrule, illustrated by A. J. Johnson, Ward, Lock & Bowden, London, UK.
1895, The Story of a Baby, illustrated by St. Clair Simmons, Ward, Lock & Bowden, London, UK.
1896, The Little Larrikin, illustrated by A. J. Johnson, Ward, Lock & Bowden, London, UK.
1896, The Little Duchess, Ward, Lock & Bowden, London, UK. - A book of short stories
1897, Miss Bobbie, illustrated by Harold Copping, Ward, Lock & Co., London, UK.
1898, The Camp at Wandinong, illustrated by Frances Ewan etc, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1900, Gum Leaves, illustrated by D. H. Souter, William Brooks, Sydney, NSW.
- Featuring short stories, poems and letters written to Dame Durden's Children's Pages.
1900, Three Little Maids, illustrated by A. J. Johnson, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1901, The Wonder-Child: An Australian Story, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1902, Little Mother Meg, Ward, Lock & Co., London, UK.
1903, Betty & Co., Ward Lock, London, UK.
1905, A White Roof-Tree, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1906, In the Mist of the Mountains, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1907, The Stolen Voyage, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1908, That Girl, Fisher Unwin, London, UK.
1908, Happy Hearts : A Picture Book for Boys and Girls, Ward Lock, London, UK. (Various Authors)
1909, Fugitives of Fortune, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1910, Fair Ines, Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK.
1910, A Raft in the Bush, Ward Lock, London, UK. - A book of short stories
1911, The Tiny House and Other Verses, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1911, An Ogre Up-To-Date, Ward Lock, London, UK. Short Stories and Verses
1911, Fifteen and Fair, Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK. - A book of Verse
1911, The Apple of Happiness, Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK.
1912, Ports and Happy Havens, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1913, The Secret of the Sea, Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK.
1914, The Flower o' the Pine, Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK.
1914, Oh, Boys in Brown, (publisher unknown) - A book of Verse
1915, The Cub, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1916, John of Daunt, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1917, Captain Cub, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1918, Australian Soldiers' Gift Book, Voluntary Workers Assoc., Sydney, NSW
1918, St. Tom and the Dragon, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1919, Brigid and the Cub, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1920, Laughing Water, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1921, King Anne, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1922, Jennifer J, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1923, The Sunshine Family: A Book of Nonesense for Girls and Boys, Ward Lock, London, UK.
- written with her daughter Jean Curlewis
1924, Nicola Silver, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1925, The Ungardeners, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1926, Funny, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1928, Judy and Punch, Ward Lock, London, UK.

Further Reading
1904, Various Authors, The Coo-ee Reciter, Ward Lock, London, UK.
- By Australian, British and American Authors. and described on the title page as being 'Humorous, pathetic, dramatic, dialect, recitations and readings'! Authors include; Ethel Turner, Henry Lawson and A. B. Paterson among others.
1909, The Ethel Turner Birthday Book, Ward Lockdon, UK. (Compiled by Lilian Turner Thompson)

Lilian Turner
1870 - 1956

Lilian was the older of Ethel and was also a writer. While she wrote twenty books for children, I have found out little about her, as all references seem to be of her sister. She joined in with writing the school magazines when at Sydney Girls High with Ethel and the Mack sisters and went onto become a journalist after leaving school. She also won the Cassell and Co.(a London publishing firm) literary competition for her novel The Lights of Sydney or The past is Dead, which was her only adult novel and is considered quite rare nowadays.

List of Works
1896, The lights of Sydney or The past is Dead, Cassell, London.
1902, Young Love, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1903, An Australian Lassie, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1906, Betty the Scribe, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1908, Paradise and the Perrys, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1909, The Perry Girls, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1910, Three New Chum Girls, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1911, April Girls, Ward Lock, London, UK. (Illustrated by J. Macfarlane)
1912, Written down, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1913, Stairway to the Stars, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1914, The Girl From the Backblocks, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1915, War's Heart Throbs, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1917, The Noughts and Crosses, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1920, Rachel, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1922, Peggy the Pilot, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1924, Jill of the Fourth Form, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1926, The Happy Heriots, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1927, Nina Comes Home, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1928, Ann Chooses Glory, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1929, Lady Billie, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1930, There Came a Call, Ward Lock, London, UK.
1931, Two Takes the Road, Ward Lock, London, UK.

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