Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Eastwood, Millicent (1872–1947)

by John Ritchie

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Millicent Eastwood (1872-1947), landlady, was born on 18 January 1872 at Wahring, Victoria, eldest child of Hardy Hill (1828-1908), a farmer from Lincolnshire, England, and his Irish-born wife Mary, née Gallagher (1848-1934). Raised in her mother's Catholic faith, Milly was educated at home by a Presbyterian governess and at the nearby state school until the age of 14. As she grew up, she helped Mary with the housework and in caring for four sisters and four brothers, the last of whom was born in 1889. Her high spirits gradually led her to bridle against the restricting patterns of rural life and to yearn for something better, or, at least, for change. Millicent never liked cows and regarded herself as 'a bit of a rebel' long before she read Miles Franklin's My Brilliant Career. The book 'put into words so much of what she felt'. Resolute yet by no means arrogant, hopeful without being assured, she journeyed to Melbourne in the early 1900s and was apprenticed to a dressmaker.

On 16 August 1907 at 448 Queen Street she married with Congregational forms 43-year-old Francis Eastwood, a hatter like his father before him. They had three daughters, Isabel, Evelyn and Amy, before Frank went alone to Western Australia in 1913. He and Millicent were never reunited. To support her young children, Mrs Eastwood leased a boarding house at South Melbourne, but soon moved to Carlton where she earned a living as a landlady in charge of a succession of apartment-houses—47 Victoria Street, 3 Lincoln Square, and numbers 37, 51 and 201 Drummond Street. As lessee, she lived on the premises, paid a sum each week to the owner, cleaned the house, had responsibility for its order and maintenance, and received the tenants' rent. She and her daughters shared the advantages of being together, and, after school and at weekends, the children could also visit the fire-brigade station or the museum, and play in the gardens of the Exhibition Building or by the lake at the University of Melbourne. Contrariwise, a number of the apartment-houses were poorly drained, there was a lurking danger of diphtheria, Millicent's own rent could be raised without notice, and the repeated walk up and down two or three flights of stairs each day proved tiring as she aged.

Reverting from landlady to tenant in 1924, Mrs Eastwood became the proprietress in turn of two sandwich shops in the city—in Little Collins Street and at the Eastern Market. She began early and worked five days a week until 8 p.m., and on Saturday mornings. Having moved six times in thirteen years, in 1926 she again shifted with her daughters, this time to 65 (now 19) Queensberry Street, Carlton. Her mother gave her £300 to buy into the apartment-house as landlady. Built of brick in 1889 and named Cavazzi, it had two storeys, ten rooms (including former servants' quarters), stables at the rear, a cast-iron balcony on the first floor, iron railings at the entrance to the front porch and a grapevine along the seven-foot-high side fence. Millicent and her daughters occupied two bedrooms upstairs, and had a living-room and kitchenette downstairs. The other lodgers were Australians. During World War II the first Greek tenant arrived; eventually seven of the tenants came from Greece. Mrs Eastwood made of this home a sanctuary, for herself, for her daughters and for those members of the extended Hill family who visited.

A woman of strong character who believed that there was no middle course between right and wrong, Millicent sent her daughters to Catholic schools and attended Mass with them every Sunday. She was a devoted mother, and a firm but considerate landlady, with a clear mind, a gracious manner, a generous nature and a hearty laugh. While she had a few close friends, for the most part she kept to herself. Fond of the cinema, the theatre and the opera (she sat in the gods and her favourite was Madama Butterfly), she also enjoyed 'a day in town' (usually Fridays) when she had afternoon tea at the Myer Emporium in Bourke Street. She bought shrewdly with very little, and dressed well in her brown suit, cream blouse, and matching hat and shoes. Tall, spare and bespectacled, she liked reading, took the Age newspaper each morning and voted Labor.

In 1946 Mrs Eastwood was diagnosed as having cancer. She died on 6 March 1947 in the home of her married daughter Evelyn at Regent and was buried in Preston cemetery. Isabel worked as a librarian with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and Amy as an administrative assistant at the university; they remained single; in 1959 they jointly bought No.65. Within a generation Australia Post built a high-rise centre next door, a large motel was erected at the rear, and lawyers and businessmen converted the adjacent terrace-houses to suites of offices.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Kelly, Faces in the Street (Syd, 1982)
  • A. Eastwood, I. Eastwood and H. Merlo, Uphill After Lunch (Melb, 1986)
  • Nagambie Times, 20 Nov 1908
  • Hill and Eastwood papers (copy held on ADB file)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Ritchie, 'Eastwood, Millicent (1872–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/eastwood-millicent-10090/text17805, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 17 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Hill, Millicent
Birth

18 January 1872
Wahring, Victoria, Australia

Death

6 March 1947
Regent, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation