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Curtin University
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library
Curtin University Library

Biography of Elsie Curtin

By Professor David Black, JCPML Historical Consultant

Elsie Curtin, wife of Australia's wartime Prime Minister John Curtin, was born in Ballarat, Victoria on 4 October 1890, one of three children and the only daughter of Abraham Needham and Annie (nee Hosking). Her father, Abraham, born near Colac in Victoria in July 1860, earned his living as a painter and sign writer but was dependent on the goldmining industry for the more specialised aspects of his work in gold-leaf and wood-graining. When the demand for these services declined in the mid-1890s, he migrated to South Africa, returning for his family two years later in 1898 with businesses successfully established in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

In South Africa Elsie was educated at Woodstock in the Cape Town area and she recalled her childhood as 'exceptionally happy.' 1 Most of her interests are said to have centred on the Church 2 - her mother's parents had been devout members of the Primitive Methodist Church - and she played the organ at the Methodist Church in Cape Town.

At an early age Elsie had also become interested in politics through discussions with her father who had, after moving away to some extent from his earlier strict Methodist views and experiences as preacher in the Victorian countryside, become a foundation member in 1904 of the Cape Town Social Democratic Federation and then the editor of a socialist newspaper. Elsie herself joined the federation three years later at the age of 17, but at this stage she also seems to have maintained her strong commitment to Methodism, including signing the pledge to abstain from alcohol and dancing.
Mrs Elsie Curtin nee Needham
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Mrs Elsie Curtin nee Needham. (Date of sitting)14/7/1942. JCPML00376/15

Both in South Africa and then in Tasmania, Elsie had numerous opportunities over the years to discuss topical political issues and absorb socialist values through the commitment of her father. Her mother was also an important influence, giving active support to the suffragette cause in South Africa. 3

Evidence of the strength of Abraham Needham's conversion to what had become his new religion of socialism can be found in the pages of various issues of the Cape Socialist. In one issue, one of the paper's journalists suggested that it was Needham's 'strong personality and whole hearted advocacy on all occasions of Socialism' that was largely 'instrumental in the great success of the movement here.' 4 At the time the paper was seeking funds for Needham's defence against charges that led to him being gaoled for a few days following an outbreak of looting in the wake of a meeting of unemployed workers.

Needham himself had a passion for writing poetry and on this occasion he likened the role of socialist reformers to that of the early Christians as:
...the prophets, priests and kings of hope and liberty for men...who fought a fight for Truth and Right. 5

On other occasions he proclaimed that 'Christ of Nazareth is my standard' and that Christ was a symbol of 'the vast toiling masses'. Elsie subsequently recalled that 'night after night' her father:
...burned the midnight oil while he studied, read or wrote articles for his papers and his poems: the latter he had published in one volume. 6

When the Needhams returned to Hobart in 1908 (leaving one son in Cape Town), Abraham established another sign-writing business as well as completing a course in economics and studying astronomy and phrenology. Elsie, for her part, assisted with the business accounts and also with duties such as embroidering union banners. The family seems to have enjoyed a full social life with music as one of the main forms of entertainment 7 - Elsie enjoyed playing the piano even though she had only one year's tuition - and it was into this environment that John Curtin was introduced in 1912 when he came to Tasmania in his capacity as the newly-appointed Secretary of the Victorian Timber Workers' Union.

It is not surprising that Curtin and Needham established an easy rapport as friends and colleagues given the manner in which each had moved from organised religion to a passionate reforming advocacy of socialism. The circumstances of the first meeting between the 27-year-old Curtin and Needham's 22-year-old daughter are still unclear but perhaps the most likely version is that in May 1912 Curtin was invited back to the Needham home following a day spent sailing with Abraham and one of his sons. Reference to a number of other visits to the Needham home, walks in the evening (ostensibly to pursue the family interest in astronomy) and entries in Elsie's autograph book urging her to read and educate herself for the cause, 8 all attest that the relationship quickly developed even if there was little indication at this stage of romantic interest between the two.

These sentiments were clearly evident when, on his return to Melbourne, Curtin wrote to Needham thanking him for the fellowship of his family:
Abraham & Annie Needham & their family: William (20yrs) Leslie (at left) 18 yrs & Elsie (14 yrs) Cape Town, South Africa - 1904. JCPML00381/4
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Abraham & Annie Needham & their family: William (20yrs) Leslie (at left) 18 yrs & Elsie (14 yrs) Cape Town, South Africa - 1904. JCPML00381/

All the time I was in Hobart I never scrupled to avail myself of the good companionship and friendly chatter which Mrs Needham and Elsie in keeping with your self seem to have so big a monopoly of. 9

Then again in the following month he wrote of '...the silly chats, the laughing hours and the right good fun we knocked out of the daily round...', 10 while likening Abraham to men like Tom Mann, '...now gone, or far away, who showed me the road and bade me march to the end.' 11

In this regard, David Day has suggested that Needham in many respects filled the gap in Curtin's life left with the departure overseas of Mann, whom he describes as Curtin's mentor and father-figure.

Curtin visited Elsie and the Needham family again in March 1913 while in Hobart for a union conference and, according to Elsie, the couple 'went to a couple of shows together.' 12 She also attended a couple of political meetings at which he spoke. By this time Curtin was writing to Elsie personally but references to romance and marriage were confined to the occasional oblique reference as when he suggested that:

One of these days I'll advertise for a companion 'affectionate disposition, very domestic not too musical desiring someone to support'. 13


Curtin saw Elsie again in Melbourne in 1914 when she was on her way to South Africa to visit her brother and friends. While she was in Melbourne, the two attended numerous Victorian Socialist Party meetings, which embraced musical items and lectures as well as political discussions. Just before she was due to leave, Curtin proposed marriage to her on St Kilda Beach and she accepted, although no formal engagement was announced and no ring given. In Elsie's own words, 'I would have given anything to be able to grab my baggage from the hold and run down the gang-plank again.' 14

Elsie's return from South Africa in November 1915 coincided with one of the more difficult stages in Curtin's life, centred on his resignation from his post as Secretary of the Timber Workers' Union. Writing to 'My Elsie' to explain his decision, he suggested that:

Because I love you better than all else in the world I am fully resolved to no longer mess round in the swirl of nothingness, that means I have decided definitely and decisively to work under such circumstances as will permit the living of a rational existence...15


and

...Oh Elsie Dearest like Hamlet 'I love you best O Most best'... Beyond & above everything I offer you my whole life, hopes for happiness, work and being... until time ends and nothing is. 16

Throughout 1916, while Curtin battled his disillusionment with the response of the workers to the socialist message and his own devil of alcoholism, his relationship with Elsie continued through correspondence, but even when he visited Hobart in November he was still not financially in a position to make firm wedding plans.

However, his appointment as editor of the Westralian Worker and the subsequent move to Perth in February 1917 removed the major financial obstacle and on 21 April, a week after Elsie's arrival in Perth, they were married by arrangement with the Registrar-General in the dining room of a house in West Leederville owned by a Justice of the Peace (JP), Mr Penna. They had only two guests (both witnesses from the Westralian Worker) and no honeymoon to follow.

Indeed, according to Elsie, after 'tea and cakes' at 'the old Moana Cafe', the newly married couple spent their wedding afternoon sitting in a rented house in West Leederville waiting for their furniture to arrive, and the next evening she accompanied her husband to a political meeting. 17

In the months that followed Curtin threw himself into his editorial work (sending more than a quarter of his salary to his parents each week) and into political meetings, which culminated in the successful campaign against the second conscription referendum, while Elsie adapted to her new life.
Elsie and John Curtin, October 1917. JCPML00376/14
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Elsie and John Curtin, October 1917. JCPML00376/14

On 30 December 1917 she gave birth prematurely to their first child, Elsie Milda (and thereafter referred to her husband as 'Dad' while he, for his part, nicknamed her 'Nippy' after a favourite dog; as a dog lover she took this as a compliment!).

1919 was a difficult year for the Curtins. On 25 March Curtin's father died in Melbourne but he was unable to attend the funeral (in September 1938 Curtin attended, with his brothers and sisters, the funeral of their mother following her death a few weeks short of her eightyseventh birthday). Four weeks later came the death from influenza of Frank Hyett, said to be 'the closest male friend Curtin ever had.' 18

These personal tragedies, and a humiliating defeat as the Australian Labor Party (ALP) candidate for the seat of Perth in the House of Representatives in December, contributed to a breakdown diagnosed as neurasthenia that forced Curtin to take several months' rest before he could resume anything like his normal hectic schedule. Fortunately for Elsie, her parents had sold their home in Hobart and moved across the country to live with the Curtin family in the home they had rented since July 1917 - No. 3 Napier Street in the beachside suburb of Cottesloe.

In addition to providing an additional source of domestic comfort for Elsie, Abraham was able on many occasions to fill in for Curtin by writing leaders (including an important editorial in Easter 1920 in which, in sympathy with Curtin's views at the time, he wrote that 'reformist methods cannot avail') 19 and other articles for the Westralian Worker. Looking back, Elsie was to describe Curtin's moods in this period as veering between 'high optimism and deep melancholy, as inexplicable as they were irregular.' 20

The Curtin's second child, John Francis (named in memory of Frank Hyett), was born on 31 January 1921 and the expanded family moved down the road to No. 15 Napier Street, a house purchased with financial assistance from Abraham, who was to die from a heart attack the following year. According to Elsie, his death was:

...a big personal loss to John as well as to me. In the three years my father lived with us, he and John had consolidated the instinctive liking for one another they had felt, when they first met in 1912. They had become more like brothers. 21

In February 1923 John and Elsie bought a block of land (registered in Elsie's name only) in Jarrad Street, Cottesloe on which local builder Arnold Bullock erected for them a fourroomed brick home with surrounding verandas on three sides (though 'as time went by the verandahs [sic] gradually disappeared into enclosures - as so often happens with verandahs' 22), which remained the family home for the rest of their lives. Elsie's mother, Annie Needham, also moved with them and remained until her death in 1944.

Settled in their own home, the Curtin family would often spend the evening around the piano after eating one of Elsie's plain-cooked meals, with Cornish pasties as a specialty. 23 While music, including singing in choirs such as the Subiaco Choral Society, continued to be an important part of Elsie's life, family sources indicate that neither she nor her husband attended any church after their marriage and neither of the children was christened. 24 On the political front, during the 1920s Elsie became increasingly active in the Labor Women's Organisation (LWO). She was a member in the Perth area for several years and in 1924 she became the founding Treasurer of the Fremantle LWO. She also served on the committee responsible for building the Cottesloe Infant Health Clinic.

After one more unsuccessful election campaign in 1925, and a number of absences from home as he travelled around Australia with the Royal Commission on Child Endowment and Family Allowances, John Curtin finally succeeded at his fourth attempt to enter federal politics, winning the seat of Fremantle in November 1928. Elsie and the children accompanied him to Canberra in January 1929, the first time since her marriage (apart from visits to hospital to have her two children) that she had been away from home 'for even one night.' 25 The family stayed at the Wellington Hotel with the children attending Telopea Park School for a term, allowing Elsie to be present for her husband's maiden speech on 14 February before they returned to Perth in April. The family again accompanied him to Canberra in November 1929 when the newly-elected Scullin Government met in Parliament for the first time (though without Curtin in the Cabinet) and then stayed on until Christmas morning.

Two years later in December 1931, Curtin fought his third election in four years and along with many of his colleagues was crushingly defeated and left unemployed for several months. In this context his daughter recalls the family folding up the pile of campaign pamphlets and distributing the material around the surrounding streets while their father delivered up to three speeches in one night at three different halls. 26 Elsie accepted the changed circumstances philosophically, not the least because Curtin's drinking problem, if not entirely solved, was at least much less obvious, and she had her husband involved in trips to the local cinema, growing zinnias and playing cricket in the front garden with their son, John.

Working for a time as a freelance journalist, Curtin also acted as a sports writer with the Westralian Worker, providing racing tips for the paper and reporting on football matches, which he attended with his son. He and Elsie also received income from a house they had built across the road from their own and which they rented out, as well as from paid work for the ALP prior to Curtin's appointment by the Collier Government in 1933 to chair the committee drawing up the Western Australia's submission to the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

Back in federal politics after regaining Fremantle for the ALP in 1934, Curtin became Leader of the Opposition on 4 October 1935, Elsie's forty-fifth birthday, and henceforth he could usually manage only the occasional fortnight at home. By this time their daughter Elsie was working as a stenographer and had joined the Young Labor League but her brother was still at secondary school. For their father, communications with his children were difficult - as evidenced by his letters to his son, including one written in October 1936 cautioning him against neglecting his study for sport:

It is vital you attend practice for cricket...[b]ut practice for manhood and its jobs is also imperative. 27

Elsie also found that communications with her husband during his absences were now much more frequently through the telephone rather than the bi-weekly letters that had been his practice previously. 28

In the political limelight herself far more than before, Elsie travelled by sea in April 1936 to meet her husband in Adelaide and they then visited Melbourne, Hobart and Launceston before she went with him to the Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra for what she described as a 'second honeymoon' (or, on occasions, as their 'proper honeymoon'). Increasingly, Elsie's role was to manage the household financially as well as performing 'more traditional wifely tasks'. 29 As Elsie herself explained the situation:

...some women are more fitted to work outside the home, and others were more suited to looking after their families and households. 30
Fremantle Labor Women's Group (including Elsie Curtin) at Fremantle Trades Hall, celebrating John Curtin becoming Prime Minister, 14 October 1941. JCPML00376/161
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Fremantle Labor Women's Group (including Elsie Curtin) at Fremantle Trades Hall, celebrating John Curtin becoming Prime Minister, 14 October 1941. JCPML00376/16

At the same time this comment underplays the role she came to play in the Fremantle electorate with her husband's increasingly lengthy absences in the east as well as her ongoing involvement with the LWO.

With the outbreak of war in 1939, Curtin's absences became even more prolonged, though he did call by phone 'every second day or something like that' and he also wrote regularly until he became Prime Minister. 31 In October 1940, shortly after her husband's narrow reelection for Fremantle in September 1940, Elsie was given a fiftieth birthday party by the LWO but Curtin had been delayed in Canberra and at the time was midway across the Nullarbor. However, Elsie returned with him to Canberra and stayed there until just before Christmas.

On 3 October 1941, the day before her fifty-first birthday, Elsie received a telegram from Curtin informing her of a highly significant 'birthday present' with the decision of the two independents to support the ALP in bringing down the Fadden Government. 32 Curtin told her that while he would move into The Lodge, he wanted her to retain their Cottesloe home and not leave either the home or the family indefinitely. At that stage Elsie still had her mother living with her and her daughter was working in Perth, although her son John was stationed with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at Geraldton, Western Australia.

Elsie herself went to Canberra at the end of the month for her first stay at The Lodge but when the outbreak of war with Japan prevented Curtin's return to Perth for the rest of the year, he sent a telegram to her pointing out that this would be the first Christmas since their marriage that they had not spent together. 33 Subsequently, Elsie established a wartime pattern of travelling by rail to Canberra twice a year, spending two or three months at The Lodge each time. Looking back she suggested that it had been:

...a rather difficult time for me when I first went over there. It was strange for me to have such a big place to run, and well-meaning people confused me by telling me what I should do, what I should wear [including having her hair 'permed'] and how I should act as the Prime Minister's wife. 34

However she suggested that the entertaining was 'mostly quite informal' in the context of wartime exigencies and that she was 'very fortunate' in their choice of housekeeper. As it was, throughout the war - and while not breaching confidentiality requirements - Curtin from time to time confided some of his doubts and anxieties to her, as in January 1942 when he wrote:

The war goes very badly and I have a cable fight with Churchill almost every day...The truth is that Britain never thought Japan would fight and made no preparations to meet that eventuality. 35


During Elsie's visit to Canberra in April 1942, the couple celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and later in the year they made a special visit to an old friend, Dame Mary Gilmore, in Sydney on the occasion of her seventy-seventh birthday. Curtin also came to Perth with Elsie in late October to attend the wedding of their daughter Elsie to Cottesloe dentist William Cole on 4 November.

Apart from duties such as launching ships and carrying out a great deal of day-to-day electorate work, Elsie assisted her husband and performed an interesting and perhaps not surprising role when, through the press, she delivered 'austerity hints to the nation' concerning how to overcome shortages of food and clothing. 36 The hints included admonitions to use fresh rather than tinned food, to buy cheaper cuts of meat and dress them 'skillfully', to hand-knit socks and to go without stockings.

In 1944, following a last-minute request from her husband, 37 Elsie made her first overseas trip since visiting South Africa in 1914, accompanying Curtin to the United States (US) and Canada, though not to London, an omission which led Elsie to suggest:

I was dumped. I was very cross about it. There were eight men in the plane and they didn't want me because I was a woman. 38


On the other hand, her daughter Elsie has indicated that she was told by her mother that her father 'was concerned' about them both being in the plane together in case the plane crashed. 39

The initial trip across the Pacific to the US by sea was marred by Elsie's adverse reaction to smallpox vaccinations. Curtin 'scarcely left her side for two days', leading one journalist to suggest 'it is hard to imagine a more devoted couple.' 40 On arrival in San Francisco, they were met by Sir Owen Dixon, Australian Minister in Washington, at what Elsie described as a 'wonderful welcome, with band and red carpet and all.' 41 In Washington Elsie met Eleanor Roosevelt (she had been in Perth when the President's wife was in Canberra in September 1943) and they flew together to South Carolina to meet with President Roosevelt. In later years they maintained a friendship by correspondence.

Back in Washington Elsie gave a press conference at which the 20 female journalists present were said to have been intrigued to discover that the Prime Minister's wife did her own housework and shopping.
John & Elsie Curtin with General Blamey on board "Lurline" before leaving Sydney for USA, 1944. JCPML00376/129
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. John & Elsie Curtin with General Blamey on board "Lurline" before leaving Sydney for USA, 1944. JCPML00376/129

42 After her husband's departure to London, Elsie stayed in Washington at Sir Owen Dixon's residence before travelling by train to Ottawa, Canada, arriving a few hours before Curtin's return. As previously mentioned, Elsie' own health had been the main cause for concern during the early stages of the trip, but Curtin had been unwell for a few days while in Washington and Elsie noted when she saw her husband in Canada that he seemed tired and his hair was 'whiter and thinner.' 43 Arriving back in Australia in July, Elsie gave a farewell reception for the Governor-General's wife, Lady Gowrie, and then returned to Perth for her mother's birthday. Her mother was to die only a few months later on 5 September 1944 at the age of 86. When Curtin was admitted to Melbourne's Mercy Hospital in November following a heart attack, he persuaded his wife (to whom he wrote regularly every week while he was in hospital) and daughter to stay in Perth until after son John's wedding to Catherine Neill at the Ross Memorial Presbyterian Church in West Perth on 9 December 1944. His daughter Elsie then came over and visited Curtin each day until he left hospital in late December and accompanied him back to The Lodge where he was later joined by his wife. He returned to his prime ministerial duties on 22 January.

Still not fully aware of the gravity of her husband's illness, Elsie stayed on in Canberra except for a visit to Adelaide to open the interstate Labor Women's Conference on 12 February 1945. After another heart attack in April that year and a short stay in a private hospital in Canberra, Curtin returned to The Lodge, was carried upstairs to his bedroom and 'never came down again alive.' 44 For a time he tried to keep up with the news by reading the papers but 'after a while he didn't ask for them.' His son John visited him in June and was there when he died in his sleep in the early hours of 5 July just a few hours before his daughter was scheduled to fly over from Perth in a RAAF bomber.

Elsie and son John were the chief mourners at the memorial service in Canberra while daughter Elsie remained in Perth to join them for the funeral there. Soon after Curtin's death, the House of Representatives granted Elsie a pension of £500 per year in recognition of the fact that she could have expected 'years of financial security and the association of her husband.' 45

In the years that followed Elsie continued to live in her Cottesloe home, the ownership of which was transferred to her daughter in 1948.

Elected as the Western Australian President of the LWO in 1944, she continued to serve in that position until September 1946, after which she maintained her active association with the organisation. During the war she had also served on the Central Council of the Red Cross Society and been patron of the Cottesloe Surf Life-Saving Club. 46 In 1949 she returned to Canberra for the laying of the foundation stone of the John Curtin School of Medical Research, staying at The Lodge as a guest of Prime Minister Chifley and his wife.
The Curtin Family, 1938. JCPML00376/18
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. The Curtin Family, 1938. JCPML00376/18

She also visited New Zealand and on her way home had lunch and dinner at The Lodge as the guest of the newly-elected incumbent, Prime Minister Robert Menzies and his wife. In an unusual move for her, she participated in Dr Evatt's successful campaign in the bythen marginal seat of Barton. Other awards and activities included being made a JP in 1955, sitting on the Married Women's Court, acting as a visitor to Fremantle Prison and life membership of several organisations, including the Perth Branch of the Association of Civilian Widows, the Royal Association of Justices, the Women's Justices Association and the Fremantle LWO.

Among Elsie's other interests would be numbered membership of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Cottesloe Women's Service Guild and the presidency of the Ship Lovers Society. 47 In 1970 she was awarded a CBE for 'services to the community' and 'encouragement' to her husband in the wartime years. She died on 24 June 1975 five months after suffering a stroke and is buried beside her husband in Karrakatta Cemetery.

Elsie's relationship with her children seems to have remained close throughout their lives. Her daughter wrote that her parents were 'easy going' and her mother, who had the 'principal upbringing of the children', was 'a placid cheerful person who seldom reprimanded her children' - indeed neither of her parents had 'believed in any physical punishment for the children.' 48 After her mother's death, Elsie continued to live in the family home until it was acquired for posterity by state and federal governments to be managed by the National Trust of Australia and the university that bears Curtin's name.

John Curtin's first major biographer, Lloyd Ross, emphasises Elsie Curtin's 'refusal to pretend' and 'unwillingness to be diplomatic', but he also contends that she 'was better versed in the history and principles of the Labor Movement than were most of her critics', a situation based on her own reading and the fact that 'she had discussed fully and freely a range of progressive ideas with her father.' 49

In the words of her daughter, Elsie Curtin was 'ideal as a partner' for John Curtin; with her 'even temperament', she could act as a 'sounding board' for him. She handled all the family's financial matters and at the same time had the background and interest in politics through her parents that enabled her, while shunning publicity as the Prime Minister's wife, to play her own active role within the Labor Party and in the community. In this regard, in the days before MPs were provided with electoral staff, she had a great many calls on her time to reply to letters and to attend meetings and functions. Throughout her time as a prime ministerial wife she spent several months at a time twice a year at The Lodge and the whole of the last six months of her husband's life. It is difficult to deny that 'her cheerful, positive, practical outlook on life was a prefect counterbalance to her husband's dreamy idealism, emotional volatility and acute sensitivity.' 50

Notes

1. Diane Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives: The Public and Private Lives of Ten Australian Women, McPhee Gribble, Ringwood, 1992, p. 116.
2. Records of the Curtin Family. Biographical notes regarding John Curtin by Elsie Macleod, nd. JCPML00399/18.
3. Records of the Curtin Family. Proposed script of ABC broadcast by Irene Greenwood, 'Mrs John Curtin - a personal sketch', July 1945. JCPML00398/74.
4. David Day, John Curtin: A Life, HarperCollins, Sydney, 1999, p. 147.
5. ibid.
6. Greenwood, 'Mrs John Curtin - A personal sketch', JCPML00398/74.
7. Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives, p. 117.
8. David Black, Friendship is a Sheltering Tree: John Curtin's Letters 1907 to 1945, John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, Bentley, 2001, p. 55.
9. Letter from Curtin to Abraham Needham, 6 June 1912, cited in ibid., p.57.
10. Letter from Curtin to Abraham Needham, 2 July 1912, cited in ibid., p. 61.
11. Letter from Curtin to Abraham Needham, 6 December 1912, cited in Day, John Curtin: A Life, p. 152
12. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 12 March 1951.
13. Curtin to Elsie Needham, 27 June 1913, in Black, Friendship is a Sheltering Tree, p. 70.
14. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 12 March 1951.
15. Curtin to Elsie Needham, 21 November 1915 in Black, Friendship is a Sheltering Tree, p. 79.
16. ibid., p. 81.
17. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 12 March 1951, and JCPML. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Letter, Elsie Macleod to Margaret and Tom Fitzgerald, 20 September 1989. JCPML00705/1/27.
18. Day, John Curtin: A Life, p. 260.
19. ibid., p. 270.
20. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 19 March 1951.
21. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 26 March 1951.
22. Records of the Curtin Family. Biographical notes regarding John Curtin by Elsie Macleod, nd. JCPML00399/18.
23. Records of the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Interview of Elsie Macleod, 10 May 1994 to 20 February 1995. JCPML00012/1.
24. JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Biographical notes regarding John Curtin by Elsie Macleod, nd. JCPML00399/18.
25. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 26 March 1951.
26. Records of the Curtin Family. Biographical notes regarding John Curtin by Elsie Macleod, nd. JCPML00399/18.
27. Letter from John Curtin to his son John, 2 October 1936, cited in Black, Friendship is a Sheltering Tree, p. 186.
28. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 26 March 1951.
29. Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives, p. 129.
30. 'Likes Home Life: Wife of Labor Politician', Melbourne Herald, 9 April 1936, cited in Records of the Curtin Family. Scrapbook No 2A, 1942-95. JCPML00298/2.
31. Interview of Elsie Macleod, JCPML00012/1.
32. See Black, Friendship is a Sheltering Tree, p. 207.
33. Telegram dated 23 December 1942 in Black, Friendship is a Sheltering Tree, p. 210.
34. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 2 April 1951.
35. Letter from John Curtin to Elsie Curtin, 5 January 1942, cited in Lloyd Ross, John Curtin: A Biography, Macmillan, South Melbourne, 1977, p. 254.
36. Argus, 18 September 1942, cited in Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives, p. 133.
37. See Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives, pp. 134ff., for a description of this trip.
38. Argus, 21 July 1944.
39. Interview of Elsie Macleod, JCPML00012/1.
40. Argus, 21 April 1944, p. 135.
41. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 9 April 1951.
42. Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 1944.
43. Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives, p. 137.
44. Elsie Curtin, 'The Curtin Story', Woman, 9 April 1951.
45. Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives, p. 42.
46. 'Elsie Curtin', in Daphne Popham (ed.), Reflections: Profiles of 150 Women who Helped make Western Australia's History, Carroll's, Perth, 1978, p. 118.
47. Records of the Curtin Family. List of memberships, Elsie Curtin, nd. JCPML00398/141, and Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives, p. 143.
48. Biographical notes regarding John Curtin by Elsie Macleod, JCPML00399/18.
49. Ross, John Curtin: A Biography, p. 388.
50. Langmore, Prime Ministers' Wives, p. 145.