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Elsie Curtin

Elsie Curtin at The Lodge, Canberra November 1941 Records of the Curtin family JCPML00376/31

Elsie Needham was born in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1890. Her family, hit by the 1890s depression, settled in Capetown, South Africa during her childhood. Elsie’s father Abraham established his sign-writing business, found time to edit the Cape Socialist and—with Elsie’s mother Annie—worked for the socialist cause.

In 1908 the Needhams moved to Hobart, where Abraham stood for parliament in 1912. John Curtin supported his campaign while visiting Tasmania on union business. He met Elsie, who was by then an active, well-read socialist, in the Needham home.

Elsie travelled alone from Tasmania to marry John Curtin soon after he arrived in Western Australia during 1917.

Elsie Curtin is remembered for her community interests—which continued after the war, her on-going support for the Labor Women’s Organisation, and her work in John Curtin’s electorate of Fremantle. These activities were based in her home. Her commitment to her husband in Canberra and her mother, children and work in Cottesloe faced her with difficult choices at a time when Parliament House was up to a week’s train journey away.

This unassuming woman had modest material ambitions. She held fast to the socialist principles she and John Curtin had both valued. Curtin’s epitaph, ‘His country was his pride, his brother man his cause,’  was chosen by Elsie and their daughter Elsie Macleod.

Elsie Curtin
Elsie M Macleod remembers her mother Elsie Curtin. 1994. JCPML00012/1

Next: A fresh start

Learn More: A woman's place

  • Elsie_Curtin_aged_79_in_1969.jpg
    Elsie Curtin aged 79 in 1969
  • Elsie_Curtin_at_The_Lodge_Canberra_November_1941.jpg
    Elsie Curtin at The Lodge Canberra November 1941
  • Elsie_Curtin_with_John_and_Elsie_1925.jpg
    Elsie Curtin with John and Elsie 1925
  • Elsie_Needham_aged_21_in_1911.jpg
    Elsie Needham aged 21 in 1911
  • Fremantle_Labor_Women's_Group_1941.jpg
    Fremantle Labor Women's Group 1941
  • Labor_women's_organisation_1950.jpg
    Labor women's organisation 1950
  • The_Needham_family_home_Tasmania.jpg
    The Needham family home Tasmania

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