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(Margaret Whitlam) by the strength of her skin, 1998

Kim Spooner

encaustic on canvas (support: 225.5 cm x 180.5 cm)

Margaret Whitlam AO (1919-2012), social worker and writer, swam in the 1938 Empire Games before marrying future Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1942. The following year she began work at the Family Welfare Bureau, and in 1948 she graduated with a degree in social work from Sydney University. When Whitlam became the Member for Werriwa in 1952, Margaret assumed many duties in the electorate; from 1964 to 1967 she also served as a hospital social worker. An active member of the Labor Party Women's Conference, just after her husband became Prime Minister in 1972 she entertained Germaine Greer at the Lodge. During his term in office she maintained a high profile as a speaker and columnist, publishing My Day in 1973. A designated National Living Treasure, in her later years she served the International Women's Year Advisory Committee, the Safer Australia Committee, Commonwealth Hostels, the Sydney Dance Company, the Law Council of NSW, the National Council for International Literacy Year, the ACT Council of Social Services, Sydney Teachers' College, the Australian Opera, Musica Viva and the NSW State Library. She wrote of her extensive overseas travels in My Other World (2001). Margaret died shortly before the Whitlams' seventieth wedding anniversary.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2004
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2004.10

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Kim Spooner (age 43 in 1998)

Margaret Whitlam AO (age 79 in 1998)

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