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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Dame Mary Gilmore

c. 1938
Lyall Trindall

oil on canvas (frame: 98.5 cm x 88.5 cm, support: 86.5 cm x 76.2 cm)

Dame Mary Gilmore DBE (1865–1962), poet, journalist and social reformer, was the first female member of the Australian Workers' Union. From 1908 to 1931 she championed a variety of social causes as editor of the women's page of the Australian Worker, including women's suffrage, children's welfare and aged and invalid pensions. In 1930 she published The Wild Swan, a book of verse decrying white settlers' ravaging of the land and indifference to Aboriginal culture; Under the Wilgas (1932) and subsequent works expanded on this theme. Between 1891 and 1961 at least thirteen portraits were made of Gilmore by various artists, an indication of her importance as a feminist and social crusader. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1937 for her contribution to Australian life and literature. Her State funeral in Sydney was the first for an Australian writer since that of her friend – possibly, briefly, her boyfriend – Henry Lawson, 40 years earlier. She is featured on the Australian $10 note and the Canberra suburb Gilmore is named after her.

In this portrait, prolific artist Lyall Trindall has depicted Dame Mary Gilmore as strong, determined and slightly forbidding. At the time the work was painted, Gilmore was assembling the poems in Battlefields (1939), the title referring to her campaigns for the underprivileged.

Purchased with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2001
© Estate of Lyall Trindall

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Lyall Trindall (age 52 in 1938)

Dame Mary Gilmore DBE (age 73 in 1938)

Subject professions

Media and communications

Supported by

Marilyn Darling AC (30 portraits supported)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

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Talking heads

About Face article

21 December 2020

In their own words lead researcher Louise Maher on the novel project that lets the Gallery’s portraits speak for themselves.

Dame Mary Gilmore
Dame Mary Gilmore
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Painting writing

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2007

Dr Sarah Engledow explores the portraits of writers held in the National Portrait Gallery's collection.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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