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A mere three weeks after Curtin's death, Irene Greenwood broadcast a tribute on ABC radio to Elsie Curtin, whom she described as:

A gracious woman sitting before a wood fire in a long, spacious room – a room book-filled, with a lived-in, well-loved air about it, furnished simply with easy chairs, a radio, an upright piano. She wears a plain black frock, totally unadorned. Dark hair, now greying telling of the years' onward march towards middle age, is piled in high, soft rolls above a good, broad brow. There is a warm colour of health glowing in the clear, fine olive skin. Brown eyes are friendly in their direct gaze, but they can twinkle with humour on occasions. A generous well-controlled mouth completes the general impression that here is a person kindly, serene, and sincere. But it is the hands, most of all, that reveal the character of this woman. Such small hands, plump, well-kept, yet strong and capable, combining the practical and the artistic; hands equally at home in the laundry, the kitchen, the garden, or at the keyboard of her piano. 99

Perhaps most remarkably, Elsie did not take a break from public life after John's death. She introduced her husband's successor as candidate for the seat of Fremantle, Kim Beazley (Senior), to the LWCE, and presided over the women's rally at Trades Hall on 15 August, as well as continuing to chair the monthly meetings.

In November, she was re-elected as LWCE President. At the December meeting, the executive discussed the possibility of a Maternity Hospital being built in Fremantle and named in John Curtin's honour. Elsie also attended the LWCE's Christmas party. 100 After another year of chairing meetings, including the annual women's rally at Trades Hall in September and the conference in October, Elsie stepped down as President. She remained on the committee as past President during 1947, and continued to be active as a fundraiser for the YWCA, and in entertaining international and interstate visitors, such as Mrs Rennie, a past Secretary of the Women's Organising Committee of South Australia. 101

In 1949, Elsie visited New Zealand at the invitation of the New Zealand High Commissioner, whom she had met in Canberra when attending the laying of the foundation stone of the John Curtin Medical School. 102

On trips to Canberra, Elsie stayed at the Lodge, as a guest, firstly, of Ben Chifley and then of Robert Menzies. 103 She campaigned on behalf of H.V. Evatt at Kogarah during the 1949 election campaign, speaking without a microphone. 104 She kept in contact with brother Leslie, who was choirmaster and organist at the Anglican Church in Albury during the latter part of his life. Leslie died in March 1952, after a long illness. 105

Elsie also maintained an extensive correspondence, including with the former Japanese ambassador to Australia, Tatsuo Kawai, who had returned to Japan at the beginning of the war. After the war, Kawai wrote to Elsie and the two corresponded for a decade before meeting in Perth in 1959, when he returned to Australia to represent the Japanese Government at an International Trade Fair in Melbourne. 106

A letter to an acquaintance in 1954 indicates that Elsie's life remained very full. She wrote of opening fetes, meeting the Queen and Prince Philip during their Royal Visit to Perth, attending the laying of the foundation stone for the John Curtin High School, continuing as a delegate of the Fremantle LWO at the annual Labor Women's conferences, and adjudicating a choir contest. 107

She also held the office of Justice of the Peace from 1955, and later was made a life member of the Royal Association of Justices and the Women Justices' Association, as well as the Association of Civilian Widows and the Fremantle Labour Women's Organisation. 108 And she took much delight in being a grandmother.

Shortly after Curtin's death, the Federal Parliament passed a Bill to provide Elsie with an annual income of £500, to cease in the event that she re-married. In proposing the Bill, Chifley stated that, 'Mrs Curtin could reasonably have expected years of financial security and the association of her husband. He, however, had spent himself on the cause of his country in its time of peril'. The Bill was passed without opposition, but perhaps of greater significance is that it appears to have inspired the first enquiry into 'retiring allowances for Ministers and Prime Ministers', according to The West Australian's report. 109 There does not appear to be any evidence that the annuity was increased to keep pace with the cost of living.



Elsie and brother Leslie
Elsie Curtin and Leslie Needham, Sydney, November 1949.
Records of the Curtin Family. JCPML00381/45

Elsie Curtin at the LWO

Labor Women's Organisation, Elsie Curtin with Rose Fuhrmann (President) and Rae Golding (Secretary), 1950.
Records of the Curtin Family. JCPML00376/163

Elsie Curtin and Tatsuo Kawai
Elsie Curtin with Tatsuo Kawai in the garden at 24 Jarrad Street, Cottesloe, 1959.
Records of Bob Wurth. JCPML01224/24

Elsie Curtin and her children

Elsie Curtin with son John and daughter Elsie, 1972.
Records of the Curtin Family. JCPML00376/48