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A love story

This telegram from John to Elsie Curtin on her fiftieth birthday (4/10/1940) refers to her ‘love and companionship in life’ as his greatest achievement, her ‘magnificently played half century’, and the ‘example and comfort’ she has given him. Records of the Curtin family JCPML00402/35

From their engagement until John’s final illness and his death, John and Elsie Curtin’s life together was arguably a love story.

Curtin valued the family home in Cottesloe. He wanted Elsie, whom he always called Nippy, to maintain a presence there and in his electorate during his parliamentary career.  Nevertheless, from 1942 Elsie visited John in Canberra about twice a year for around two or three months each time and in 1945, apart from a week’s absence in Adelaide, she was there from January until his death that July.[47]

A staff member in a prime ministerial party travelling by train to Brisbane in 1942 remarked on the warmth of the Curtin’s relationship, recalling how Curtin brushed Elsie’s hair in the carriage as they travelled.[48]

Elsie has been called ‘the silent partner’ in John Curtin’s political life.[49]  She wrote, ‘My role was in the background. I’d give my advice when John asked for it’.[50]  Elsie Macleod said that her mother’s evenly balanced personality was the perfect foil for her father’s mood swings.[51]

In a birthday letter to Elsie in 1941 John Curtin wrote:

You have given me a deep well of content and met the urges of my nature completely. I have had supreme happiness in your love and loveliness ... All my love and all my heart and all my gratitude for all you have been and are ... the beloved of my soul.[52]

Next: Cottesloe and the war

  • Curtin_house_were_styled_on_the_Interwar_Californian_Bungalow.jpg
    Curtin house were styled on the Interwar Californian Bungalow
  • Gun-carriage_bearing_John_Curtin's_coffin_outside_Curtin_home_Cottesloe_1945.jpg
    Gun-carriage bearing John Curtin's coffin outside Curtin home Cottesloe 1945
  • John_Curtin's_funeral_procession_Cottesloe_July_1945.jpg
    John Curtin's funeral procession Cottesloe July 1945
  • John_Curtin_working_Sunday_morning_Lodge_study_Canberra_1942.jpg
    John Curtin working Sunday morning Lodge study Canberra 1942
  • Labor_flyer_for_the_federal_election_campaign_1943.jpg
    Labor flyer for the federal election campaign 1943
  • Labor_women's_organisation_1950.jpg
    Labor women's organisation 1950
  • Telegram_from_John_to_Elsie_Curtin_on_her_fiftieth_birthday_4-10-1940.jpg
    Telegram from John to Elsie Curtin on her fiftieth birthday 4-10-1940
  • The_desk_of_John_Curtin_was_made_of_Tasmanian_oak_in_1927.jpg
    The desk of John Curtin was made of Tasmanian oak in 1927
  • The_lounge_was_a_workplace_for_John_Curtin_during_the_Depression.jpg
    The lounge was a workplace for John Curtin during the Depression
  • Westralian_Worker_1932.jpg
    Westralian Worker 1932

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