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Wife of the Leader of the Opposition

Elsie's new role as wife of the Leader of the Federal Opposition brought with it many social obligations, and presumably demands upon her purse to maintain a high standard of couture.

With John, Elsie – in 'parchment lace touched with gold' – attended the Coronation Ball held at Government House, Perth in May 1937, in honour of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. 48

Daughter Elsie also acted as John Curtin's ambassador on occasions, as when she paid a 'courtesy call' on the New Zealand Prime Minister, while holidaying there in 1939. 49

By the late 1930s, Elsie Junior, who had grown tall and was described as being 'attractive and clever', featured regularly in the social pages, and in 1939 was the railways' candidate for a 'popular girl' contest to raise funds for infant health. 50

In 1940, Elsie celebrated her fiftieth birthday in John's absence. The Perth Labor Women hosted a big celebration, whose guest list included WA Labor Premier John Willcock and his wife; several members of the State Cabinet; Edward Needham, a retired Labor Senator, who has sometimes erroneously been described as one of Elsie's relatives; the State Secretary of the ALP, Percy Trainer, and the Lord Mayor of Perth.

Elsie attended with her son and daughter. She was reported as wearing 'a bolero ensemble of rich cream lace', which sounds rather similar to the outfit she chose for the Coronation Ball. 51

John and Elsie Curtin and their daughter
Leader of the Opposition, John Curtin with his wife and daughter, 1940.
Records of the Curtin Family.

The Curtin Family home
The Curtin house, Cottesloe, 1939.
Records of the Curtin Family.