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Dale, Marguerite Ludovia (1883–1963)

by Audrey Tate

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Marguerite Ludovia Dale (1883-1963), feminist and playwright, was born on 22 October 1883 at Boorowa, New South Wales, eldest of four daughters of Charles Ludovia Hume, a local grazier and nephew of Hamilton Hume, and his wife Celia Annie, née Maltby, who was born at Calcutta, India. Marguerite spent her childhood on her parents' station and was educated by governesses before being sent to Ascham School, Sydney. Although clever and ambitious, she ran the family home after her mother's death in 1904. Attractive, vivacious and energetic, on 16 January 1907 at St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney, she married a solicitor George Samuel Evans Dale (d.1944); they lived at Chatswood and were to have two daughters.

Mrs Dale supported the campaign in 1916 for early closing of hotels and was prominent in the movement that resulted in the Women's Legal Status Act (1918). She soon developed a reputation for being 'learned and bright, a good speaker with a quick flow of language and a rich vein of humour'. Active in the Women's Reform League of New South Wales under Laura Luffman, she became president of the reconstituted Women's League in 1923. In addition, she worked for the Workers' Educational Association, the National Council of Women and the Australian Federation of Women's Societies (later Women Voters). An office-bearer in the North Sydney branch of the Housewives' Association, she belonged to the Lyceum, Feminist and Women's clubs.

In 1922 Dale was appointed an alternate delegate to the third general assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva, Switzerland, and addressed the assembly on the White slave traffic. On her return she spoke on the league's work to enthusiastic audiences across Australia. In 1924 she wrote that she was 'practically retiring from public life because of poor health' and spent eighteen months in a sanatorium at Geneva.

Well known in Sydney's literary and theatrical circles, Dale had also written plays: her Secondary Considerations was produced by Gregan McMahon for the Sydney Repertory Theatre Society in December 1921. She ambitiously took her comedy, The Mainstay, to London where it was read at the Lyceum Club and subsequently performed in Sydney on 8 August 1923 to raise funds for delegates to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance's congress in Rome. Following her association with the Swedish writer Hedwig af Petersens (whose memoir, 'A Year in Australia', she had edited in 1921), The Mainstay was translated into Swedish and produced at Uppsala in 1929. Other plays by Dale, Paris in the Air and Meet as Lovers, were staged in Sydney at Carrie Tennant's Community Playhouse in 1930 and produced by May Hollinworth at the Savoy Theatre in October 1934. Despite Dale's 'gift for characterisation and a rare natural sense of theatrical requirements', her career as a playwright faded.

An intrepid traveller, in 1935 Dale flew to Britain. Back in Sydney, she remained interested in the women's movement and in the arts, and wrote occasional articles under the pen-name, 'Femina'. Survived by her daughters, she died on 13 May 1963 at Neutral Bay and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • B. M. Rischbieth, March of Australian Women (Perth, 1964)
  • Woman's World, 1 Aug 1929, p 530
  • BP Magazine, 4, no 2, Mar 1932
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1, 11 Sept 1922, 29 Aug, 17 Oct 1923, 22 Oct 1930, 11, 17 Oct 1934, 17, 24 Oct 1935
  • M. A. Foley, The Women's Movement in New South Wales and Victoria, 1918-1938 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Sydney, 1985)
  • Dale papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Audrey Tate, 'Dale, Marguerite Ludovia (1883–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dale-marguerite-ludovia-9889/text17503, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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