Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jarrett, Patricia Irene (Pat) (1911–1990)

by Audrey Tate

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Patricia Irene Herschell (Pat) Jarrett (1911-1990), journalist, was born on 9 March 1911 at Albert Park, Melbourne, elder daughter of Victorian-born parents Cyril Chalmers Jarrett, station manager, and his wife Jessie Mabel, née Herschell. Although her Christian names were registered as Irene Herschell, she was always known as Patricia. Her family lived with Cyril’s parents on their property near Kyneton, where the fair-haired, blue-eyed Pat had an idyllic early childhood. In 1917 she moved with her mother and sister to Melbourne. Educated at Middle Park State and Elwood Central schools, she excelled at sport. The Olympic champion (Sir) Frank Beaurepaire encouraged her as a swimmer. In 1927 she began work in Herschell’s Film Laboratories, owned by an uncle, while also free­lancing for the Sporting Globe, in which she soon had her own column. At the same time she successfully competed in championship swimming and athletics.

Ambitious and confident, in 1933 Pat joined Sir Keith Murdoch Herald as a woman sportswriter. She covered the first English women’s cricket tour of Australia in 1934-35, and in 1937 accompanied the Australian team’s return tour of England. In 1939 Murdoch approved her request to visit North America. En route she renewed acquaintance with Maie (Lady) Casey, travelling to join her husband, Richard (Lord) Casey, who was setting up Australia’s first legation in Washington. Thus began a lifelong friendship with the Caseys, especially Maie, whose secretary she became. Forthright and honest, Jarrett found the `social racket’ accompanying diplomatic life tedious, but an American woman journalist dubbed her the `dynamic blond lady from down under’ who brought `a refreshing touch to the diplomatic scene’. She was then the only foreigner to be admitted to the National Women’s Press Club, Washington. In May 1941 she was named press liaison officer for the legation. Returning to Australia in February 1942 Jarrett became a war correspondent, although, as a woman, she was confined to Australia. Early in 1943 she joined the Caseys in Calcutta when Richard Casey, newly appointed governor of Bengal, invited her to be Maie’s assistant. Pat accompanied her on all official duties, and helped her to run the household and entertain dignitaries such as Mahatma Gandhi and Louis (Lord) Mountbatten.

After the Caseys left Calcutta in February 1946, Jarrett worked briefly in New York as a publicity officer. She returned to Melbourne and journalism in March 1947. Next year Murdoch offered her the position of women’s editor of the Sun News-Pictorial. Initially reluctant to be relegated to the `butterfly department’, Pat accepted and became known to her colleagues as `P. J.’. She transformed the women’s pages into a respected vehicle for con­temporary women’s issues, while her column, `Fair Comment’, became a household word. She was equally popular on her 1967 radio 3DB program, `Talk It Over’, and her weekly television appearance on HSV-7’s `Meet the Press’.

Short, sturdily built, with a ready smile and great sense of humour, Miss Jarrett served as women’s editor until 1973 and then continued as editorial consultant until 1985; altogether she spent fifty-two years with the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd. In 1972 she was appointed MBE and awarded the Queen’s Jubilee medal. Having lived at Berwick, near the Caseys, for more than two decades, she moved to Mt Eliza in 1981. She died on 28 August 1990 at Frankston and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • W. J. Hudson, Casey (1986)
  • A. Tate, Fair Comment (1996)
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 29 Aug 1990, p 15
  • M. Cranfield, interview with P. Jarrett (typescript, 1984, National Library of Australia)
  • L. Mills, From the `Butterfly Department’ to Beirut: Australian Women Reporting in Wartime 1939-1979 (BA Hons thesis, University of Melbourne, 1989)
  • Herald and Weekly Times Ltd Archives (Melbourne)
  • Jarrett papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • private information.

Citation details

Audrey Tate, 'Jarrett, Patricia Irene (Pat) (1911–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jarrett-patricia-irene-pat-12694/text22883, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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