Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jones, Doris Egerton (1889–1973)

by Suzanne Edgar

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Doris Egerton Jones (1889-1973), writer, was born on 23 December 1889 at Mitcham, Adelaide, daughter of John Elias Jones, accountant, and his wife Emma Marie, née Fischer. The family moved around Victorian and Western Australian goldfields when Doris was young, but she later attended Glenelg Public School and, in 1901-05, the Advanced School for Girls in Adelaide. At 14 she wrote her first play, 'Ned Kelly, bushranger', and next year a novel, Peter Piper. The heroine of this romance dressed as a boy until she was 18 when her 'womanliness' asserted itself; it was published in London in 1913.

From 1909, while living with her mother, sister and uncle Dr Fischer, Doris Jones attended the University of Adelaide (B.A., 1911). After graduating she began to study law, although women were not allowed to practise in South Australia. She protested to Premier John Verran and later in 1911 an enabling law was passed, but she became ill and abandoned study. She resumed writing and contributed to the war effort; her story 'Burnt offerings' in the Lady Galway Belgium Book (1916) shows a youth in conflict over whether to enlist.

In 1915 Jones had published the novels Time O'Day and Green Eyes. Next year, The Coconut Planter, in which she utilized material gathered on holiday in New Guinea, appeared; its heroine struggled to establish her independence. In 1918 Jones travelled to London where she sold her first play, 'Uncle Buncle'. On 28 March at St Matthew's, Bayswater, she married Reginald Callaghan, a clerk who had served with the Australian Imperial Force. She also published her last book, The Year Between. Like her other novels it was mostly narrated in the first person by a rather breathless heroine who begins life as an innocent tomboy. There are excellent descriptions of the Australian bush, maltreatment and misunderstanding of Aboriginals by whites, and the Anzac landing at Gallipoli; but the sentimental plot moves slowly to an improbably delayed happy ending. The novel belongs to the romance fiction genre.

Doris Jones, who kept her maiden name for writing, returned with her husband to Sydney in 1922 where she collaborated with the actress Emélie Polini to write The Flaw. Her first play to be performed, it was staged by J. C. Williamson Ltd at the Criterion Theatre from 27 January 1923. Although criticized as 'the rawest melodrama', it proved popular. Her next play, produced in August 1930, was a three-act historical comedy, Governor Bligh. The author portrayed Bligh as an Australian patriot, 'a hot-headed, hard-shelled, warm hearted, kindly disciplinarian'.

Jones now had a daughter and two sons and she gave up writing to rear them. 'I do not think it is possible to write and mother a family at the same time', she said. Her later writing failed to find a publisher. Her recreations were mothercraft, bridge and charity causes and she read Shaw, Wilde and Galsworthy. A tall, vital woman who preferred to dress in mauve, she remained enthusiastic and strong minded, although often unwell. In 1944 her eldest son was shot down flying over Germany. In 1963 Reginald Callahan (they had changed the name's spelling) died. Survived by her daughter and younger son, Doris Egerton Jones died on 30 September 1973 at Wahroonga and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Depasquale, A Critical History of South Australian Literature, 1836-1930 with Subjectively Annotated Bibliographies (Adel, 1978)
  • N. Krauth (ed), New Guinea Images in Australian Literature (Brisb, 1982)
  • Stage and Society, 11 Jan 1923
  • Woman's World, 1 Feb 1923
  • Australian Woman's Mirror, 23 Sept 1930
  • Pioneer Books of Adelaide, In-House, June, Sept 1982
  • Sunday Sun (Sydney), 28 Jan 1923, private information.

Citation details

Suzanne Edgar, 'Jones, Doris Egerton (1889–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-doris-egerton-6870/text11903, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Callaghan, Doris Egerton
  • Callahan, Doris Egerton
Birth

23 December 1889
Mitcham, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Death

30 September 1973
Wahroonga, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Occupation