Wednesday 17 May 2023

Ruth Pitter, CBE (1897 - 1992) – British poet and artist

Ruth was born Emma Thomas Ruth Pitter in Ilford, Essex, UK on 7th November 1897. However, her birth certificate records her Christian name as just being "Ruth."  Her parents were George Pitter and his wife, Louisa Pitter, nee Murrell, who were both primary school teachers.  Ruth was educated at the Coborn School for Girls in London. 

During the First World War, Ruth was employed at the War Office from 1915 to 1917. She went on to work as an artist at a furniture company in Suffolk -Walberswick Peasant Pottery Co.

Ruth’s parents encouraged her to write poetry from an early age.  In 1920, she published her first collection of poems – “First Poems” (London: Cecil Palmer, 1920) - with the help of the poet Hilaire Belloc.

Ruth was the first woman to receive the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, which she was awarded in 1955. In 1979 she was appointed appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), to honour her many contributions to English literature.  In 1974, Ruth was named a "Companion of Literature", the highest honour given by the Royal Society of Literature.

After a long and very industrious life during which she published a good deal of her poems, Ruth died on 29th February 1992.

(NOTE; Prisca Coborn or Cobourne (1622-1701), the widow of a Bow brewer, left property at Bow, Stratford, and Bocking (Essex) to maintain a school for not more than 50 poor children at Bow; the boys were to learn reading, writing, and accounts, and the girls reading, writing, and needlework. The Coopers' Girls' School at 86 Bow Road was renamed Coborn School and moved to new buildings at 31-33 Bow Road, London, E 3 in 1898.)

Sources:  Free BMD, Find my Past

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Ethel Turner (1870 – 1958) - British-born Australian novelist, poet and children's literature writer.

My grateful thanks to Rupert Brooke Remembered on Facebook, for posting the poem about Rupert Brooke written by Ethel , with additional information about Ethel on which enabled me to amend my previous mentions of Ethel.  

Born Ethel Mary Burwell on 24th January 1870 in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster in South Yorkshire, UK, her parents were Bennett George Burwell, who was a commercial traveller (salesman), and his wife, Sarah Jane Burwell, nee Shaw. Ethel’s father died when she was two, leaving a Sarah Jane a widow with two daughters - Ethel and her sister Lillian, who was born in 1867.  Following her remarriage to Henry Turner, who was 20 years her senior and had six children of his own, Sarah Jane and Henry had a daughter, Rose. Henry Turner died suddenly, leaving Sarah Jane with nine children. In 1879, Sarah Jane moved to Australia with Lilian, Ethel and Rose.  

Educated at Paddington, New South Wales Public School and Sydney Girls High School, Ethel began her writing career when she was eighteen, founding the “Parthenon”, a journal for young people, with her sister Lillian. Using the pen-name 'Dame Durden', Ethel wrote children's columns for the “Illustrated Sydney News” and the “Australian Town and Country Journal”.

In 1896, Ethel married Herbert Curlewis, a lawyer. 

During the First World War (1914-1918) Ethel demonstrated that she was a staunch patriot - she worked hard on patriotic campaigns, including advocacy for conscription, Australian intake of European war orphans and raising funds for soldiers’ homes. 

In 1915, along with other fundraising work, Ethel wrote a song to raise money for the Red Cross.  She also campaigned for the early closing of hotels and “sobriety in wartime” (1915), as well as giving support to the wartime referendum for the 6 o’clock closing of pubs (1916). 

In order to raise money for soldiers returning to Australia after the war, Ethel co-edited “The Australian Soldiers’ Gift Book” with Bertram Stevens (Voluntary Workers' Association, Sydney, N.S.W.,1918).

Ethel died on 8th April 1958 and was buried in Macquarie Park Cemetery in Sydney.

Ethel's poem about WW1 poet Rupert Brooke, which was published in "Poetry Magazine", edited by Harriet Monroe, in June 1924:


Find my Past, FreeBMD