Flora Eldershaw - Life


Eldershaw was born in Sydney but grew up in the Riverina district of country New South Wales. She was the fifth of eight children born to Henry Sirdefield Eldershaw, a station manager, and Margaret (née McCarroll). She attended boarding school at Mount Erin Convent in Wagga Wagga.

After school, she studied history and Latin at the University of Sydney where she met Marjorie Barnard with whom she later formed a writing collaboration, under the name M. Barnard Eldershaw. She worked as a teacher, first at Cremorne Church of England Grammar and then, from 1923, at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Croydon, where she became senior English mistress and head of the boarding school. According to Dever, her Catholic education precluded her becoming headmistress. In 1941, she moved to Canberra to take up a government position, transferring to Melbourne in 1943 where she worked for the Department of Labour and National Service. In 1948 she started working as a private consultant in industrial matters such as women's legal rights and equal pay, and extending her interests into the welfare of Aboriginal and migrant women.

Like many women writers of the time, she had to work to support her writing activities. Like them too, she faced difficulties about where to live. For a time she lived as a resident mistress at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, but came to hate the restrictions this entailed. Barnard, herself living under the restrictions of home, described Eldershaw's situation as 'untenable'. In 1936 Eldershaw and Barnard rented a small flat in Potts Point where they could give small dinner parties and to which they could retreat from school and home. In 1938 she moved out of school completely into a better flat in King's Cross. During this time, these flats operated as something like a literary salon, as it was here that Eldershaw and Barnard were able to entertain many of their literary peers.

Like Marjorie Barnard, she never married. As her health failed due to "years of overwork and financial worries", she went to her sister's place in 1955. Ironically, she was granted one of the literary pensions she had fought hard to establish a decade earlier. She died in hospital of a cerebral thrombosis in 1956.

Read more about this topic:  Flora Eldershaw

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