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image icon Elsie Curtin at Rowe's banquet hall, Brisbane, 1942

Elsie Curtin at Rowe's banquet hall, Brisbane, 1942
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is a black-and-white photograph of Elsie Curtin (second from left), wife of Labor Prime Minister John Curtin, her hostess Mrs W P Conelan (third from left), wife of the Federal Government Party Whip, and two other women, at a morning tea party at Rowe's banquet hall in Brisbane on 18 August 1942.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset shows an event organised to welcome the Prime Minister's wife during an official visit to a state capital - Elsie Curtin, wife of John Curtin (Australian Prime Minister from 1941 to 1945), was the guest at a formal, ladies-only morning tea hosted by other wives of parliamentarians following her arrival at Brisbane with her husband to launch the ship HMAS 'Fremantle'.
  • This asset reveals much about the setting and the food served at formal morning teas in the 1940s - the table is laid with a white tablecloth, fine china featuring a floral design, silver cutlery, abundant flower arrangements and enticing cakes.
  • This asset shows examples of the clothing worn by ladies attending a formal morning event in the 1940s - the Brisbane 'Courier Mail' reported that 'Mrs Curtin wore daffodils on her black coat, with its matching hat' while 'Mrs Conelan was in romance blue, with a spray of carnations and violets'.
  • This asset suggests something of the role of a prime minister's wife in the 1940s - Elsie Curtin participated in public events, attended parliamentary and Labor Party functions and was called on to speak publicly on a range of issues, usually related to the role and work of women; she told fellow guests at the morning tea that all women could play a part, however small, in working for a cause.
  • This asset depicts Elsie Curtin (1891-1975) - the youngest child of Annie and Abraham Needham, Elsie was born in Ballarat, Victoria but lived from the age of nine in South Africa, returning with her family to Tasmania at the age of 18; she met John Curtin in Hobart in 1912 and they married in 1917 in Perth; they had two children, a daughter, Elsie, and a son, John; in the west, Elsie continued her interest in social issues and politics, taking an active role in women's affairs and in the Labor Party; during Curtin's prime ministership, Elsie spent time at The Lodge in Canberra as well as maintaining the family home in Cottesloe and assisting with the work of her husband's electorate in his absence.