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Francisca Adriana Mawson OBE

1891 – 1974

Francisca Adriana Mawson OBE (née Delprat, 1891-1974), known as Paquita, came to Australia when her father, Guillaume Daniel Delprat, became the General Manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. Paquita attended school in Adelaide until 1908, and then studied piano and singing at the Elder Conservatorium of Music. She was 17 when she met Douglas Mawson and 18 when she accepted his offer of marriage - in doing so, also accepting that she would have to wait out the two-year term of the AAE before they could marry, with no guarantee that her fiancé would return safely from the expedition. They married in Melbourne in early 1914. During World War I, Paquita joined her husband in London where she did volunteer war work and worked as Mawson's secretary. In 1919 they returned to Adelaide, where the striking couple became prominent in the social life of the city. In addition to raising the couple's two daughters, Paquita became involved in community work with organisations such as the Mothers' and Babies' Health Association and the Australian Red Cross Society. She was honoured by the Dutch Royal Family in 1946 - appointed an officer of the Order of Oranje-Nassau - in recognition of her work with Dutch refugees during World War II; and received an OBE in 1951. She also wrote and published two books - the first a biography of her father, A Vision of Steel (1958); and the second a biography of her husband, Mawson of the Antarctic (1964). Paquita is described by the ADB as having been a 'frequent hostess' with a lifelong interest in gardening and music. She was multilingual and travelled extensively in Europe and the USA in her lifetime. She was tall, fashionable, and noted for her 'talent for public speaking, quick wit and generous spirit.' She died in Adelaide in May 1974.

Updated 2018
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