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Mary Grant Bruce

Mary Grant Bruce is one of Australia's best known children's authors.

Honour Roll

Together with Ethel Turner her work formed the backbone of reading material available for children from 1894 to 1942. Born in Sale in 1878, Mary grew up in and around the Gippsland area. Her mother's family lived in Traralgon and were regarded as part of the local 'squattocracy'.

Always interested in reading and writing, Mary won the Melbourne Shakespeare Society prize for writing three years running, the first when she was 16. At the age of 20, in an era when young ladies were expected to stay at home, Mary went to Melbourne with five pounds in her pocket to look for a job. Mary spent the next 13 years living in Melbourne and in 1900 she became the editor of the Children's Page in The Leader and began writing short stories. In 1910 these stories were collected and published as A Little Bush Maid.

This began the popular and famous series of 'Billabong' books, based on her early years in Gippsland. They created an idealised bush family, the Lintons, who were much loved by her readers. The last of the Billabong books was published in 1942 when Mary was 64.

While living in Melbourne, Mary bought one of the new 3-speed bicycles and was a pioneering skirted woman cyclist who sometimes pedalled the 160 kilometres from Melbourne to Traralgon to visit her family. Mary left Melbourne in 1912 to return to Traralgon. The following year she visited family in Ireland and while there, she met her cousin, George Bruce who she married in Australia the next year.

From there on she divided her time between Australia, Ireland and England. She had two sons, one of whom died. She continued to write throughout her life. She lived in Australia during the Second World War and between 1940 and 1942 Mary gave over 200 war talks on the radio. She wrote articles for newspapers until about 1951. In 1954 she returned to England and died there in 1958 at 80 years of age.

Mary was a founding member of the Women Writers Club and the Fellowship of Gippsland Women. She is described as a "feminist and an independent professional woman". It was also said of her that during her era, no writer was better known or loved.