Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Crist, Alice Guerin (1876–1941)

by Christopher Lee

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Alice Guerin Crist (1876–1941), author and journalist, was born on 6 February 1876 at Clare Castle, Clare, Ireland, daughter of Patrick Guerin, chapel master, and his wife Winifred, née Roughan. Alice migrated with her family to Queensland at the age of 2. As her father was a teacher, she spent her childhood at small, south-eastern rural schools where he supervised her education and her work as a pupil-teacher. In 1896 she was appointed to Blackhall Range State School near Landsborough but after a transfer to West Haldon next year she was unfairly dismissed when an inspector found her en route to a wedding to retrieve truant students. She returned to her family at Douglas on the Darling Downs. On 4 October 1902 at St Patrick's Catholic Church, Toowoomba, she married a German immigrant farmer, Joseph Christ, who later changed the name to Crist. The couple moved to an isolated property at Rosenberg near Bundaberg in 1910 but returned to Toowoomba in 1913 when Jo began a fuel supply business there.

Alice pursued an active literary career despite significant periods when she had to concentrate on farm work and the care of her five children. A prolific writer of verse and short fiction, she published widely in the Australian secular and religious press including the Bulletin (Sydney), Worker, Steele Rudd's Magazine, Home Budget, Toowoomba Chronicle, Catholic Advocate and Catholic Press. Her devout Irish Catholicism was at first associated with democratic politics and in 1902 she joined the Social Democratic Vanguard. She also became friendly with another poet and schoolteacher (Dame) Mary Gilmore , who published her work in the woman's page of the Australian Worker. Crist wrote about her rural and domestic experiences, frequently celebrating the beauty of the bush and the virtues and struggles of Irish Australian pioneers. A marked Celtic influence is discernible in poems about the homesickness of immigrants and in the sprites and faeries of her nature verse and poems for children.

Crist was a long-term member and vice-president of the Toowoomba Ladies' Literary Society, which played an important role promoting the culture of the Darling Downs. In 1917 her youngest brother Felician was killed at Passchendaele, Belgium; for many years she contributed Anzac Day poems to the Toowoomba Chronicle. She published When Rody Came to Ironbark and Other Verses (Sydney, 1927) and Eucharist Lilies and Other Verses (Sydney, 1928).

From 1927 the Brisbane Catholic Advocate began to pay Crist for rural and religious poems, short stories and a serial celebrating the contribution of the Christian Brothers to Catholic education, which resulted in the novel, ''Go It! Brothers!!” (Sydney, 1928). In 1930 she became 'Betty Bluegum', editor of the children's page, and used the versatility of this outlet to stimulate Queensland's Catholic children. Crist's page, like her verse, was an inventive mix of Catholic Irish-Australian nationalism, domestic virtue and appreciation of nature, and she encouraged young correspondents.

In 1935 she was awarded King George V's jubilee medal and in 1937 King George VI's coronation medal. Crist died of tuberculosis on 13 June 1941 in hospital at Toowoomba and was buried in Toowoomba cemetery. Her husband, three daughters and two sons survived her. In September 1953 a wing of the Holy Spirit Hospital, Brisbane, was dedicated in her name.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Duhig, ‘foreword’ in A. G. Crist, Eucharist Lilies (Brisb, 1929)
  • H. A. Kellow, Queensland Poets (Lond, 1930)
  • D. Dornan, Alice With Eyes A-Shine (Brisb, 1998)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Christopher Lee, 'Crist, Alice Guerin (1876–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/crist-alice-guerin-12868/text23237, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 25 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Guerin, Alice
  • Betty Bluegum
Birth

6 February 1876
Clare Castle, Clare, Ireland

Death

13 June 1941
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation