Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Moodie Heddle, Enid Olive (1904–1991)

by Michelle J. Smith

This article was published online in 2018

Enid Olive Mary Moodie Heddle (1904-1991), author, editor, and publisher of children’s books, was born on 10 March 1904 at Elsternwick, Melbourne, second of six children of Scottish-born Robert Cospatrick Dunbar Moodie-Heddle, master mariner, and his Victorian-born wife Ethel Olive, née Paterson. In 1907 and 1908 Enid sailed around the world aboard her father’s ship, the barque Loch Ness. Both her parents encouraged an early interest in storytelling. She attended Sydney Girls’ High School (1919-20) before completing her education in Melbourne. Matriculating in 1923, she enrolled at the University of Melbourne (MA, 1928; DipEd, 1928), where she studied English and philosophy. Following her degree, she taught literature, history, and geography at Woodlands Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, Adelaide (1927-28, 1931-33), and Ruyton Girls’ Grammar School at Kew, Victoria (1929-30). She later recalled that ‘very little Australian literature was read by children,’ which motivated her to ‘do what I could to make it more easily available’ (McVitty 1989, 94).

During a year in the United Kingdom in 1934, Moodie Heddle visited schools and children’s libraries, and secured an appointment as an educational representative for two British publishers, Longmans Green & Co. Ltd and William Collins, Sons & Co. Ltd. Returning to Australia in February 1935, she visited Perth then drove up and down the east coast of Australia displaying educational books at schools, universities, and training colleges. She was an advocate for children’s sections in regional public libraries with trained librarians to staff them.

Settling in Melbourne, Moodie Heddle worked for the Australian branch of Longmans, serving as general manager during World War II and subsequently as education manager (1946-59). Her work as a woman in the publishing industry was seen as ‘unusual at that time’ (Nicholson 2000, 294). She did much to develop Australian children’s book publishing, particularly through her editorship of anthologies focused on national literature and history. Her early collections included Some Australian Adventurers (1944) and Action and Adventure: A Book of Australian Prose (1954), which featured extracts from novelists such as Henry Handel Richardson. Most significantly, she edited the ‘Boomerang’ series of school readers, in collaboration with the South Australian education department.

Published by Longmans, the Boomerang series was inaugurated in 1952 with Girdle Round the World, followed the next year by four titles: Near and Far, Now and Then, Here and There, and New and Old. Featuring a selection of English, European, and Australian literature, the books were targeted at children between seven and twelve years of age and sought to foster wider reading and the acquisition of home libraries. Designed and illustrated by Harold Freeman, a teacher at Melbourne Technical College, the books were so well regarded that copies were presented to Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Australia in 1954 for use by Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

In 1955 Moodie Heddle wrote a Teachers’ Handbook to accompany the series. The Boomerang Book of Legendary Tales (1957), in which she collected Indigenous folklore as adapted by white authors—including Katherine Langloh Parker—won the Children’s Book Council’s Book of the Year award in 1957, while The Boomerang Book of Australian Poetry (1956) was highly commended. With Iris Millington, Moodie Heddle also sought to introduce children to the history of Australian literature from white settlement through the publication of How Australian Literature Grew (1962).

Though best known for her work in children’s publishing, Moodie Heddle also wrote and edited for adult readers. She authored two books of poetry, Solitude: And Other Vagaries (1937) and Sagitta Says (1943), and adapted the Australian versions of British anthologies, among them The Poet’s Way (1942, 1943, 1944), Discovering Poetry (1956, 1957), and A Galaxy of Poems Old and New (1962). She contributed to journals including Meanjin, Walkabout, and the Jindyworobak Review, and wrote a history of the Victorian winery Chateau Tahbilk, first published in 1960. Retiring that year, she remained an educational adviser to Longmans, editing More Australian Adventurers (1970) and Seasons of Man: Poets of Seven Centuries (1973, with John Curtain). She was a member of the Australian College of Educators and the Lyceum Club, and enjoyed gardening and conversation. Moodie Heddle never married. She died on 11 December 1991 at Glen Iris, Melbourne, and was cremated.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Austlit. ‘Enid Moodie Heddle.’ Accessed 29 November 2017. https://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/A19093. Copy held on ADB file
  • Australian Women's Weekly. ‘What Women Are Doing: Travelled 8000 Miles Showing New Educational Books.’ 31 August 1935, 23
  • Lees, Stella, and Pam Macintyre, eds. The Oxford Companion to Australian Children’s Literature. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993
  • McVitty, Walter. Authors & Illustrators of Australian Children’s Books. Sydney: Hodder & Stoughton, 1989
  • Messon, Mercia. ‘Book Series for Children Making History.’ Argus (Melbourne), 31 October 1953, 16
  • National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, University of Canberra. Walter McVitty Research Collection, Folder 66, ‘Personal Data—Enid Moodie Heddle’
  • Nicholson, Joyce. A Life of Books: The Story of D.W. Thorpe Pty. Ltd., 1921-1987. Middle Park, Vic.: Courtyard Press, 2000
  • West Australian. ‘English Education: An Elastic System.’ 8 February 1935, 6
  • Wilde, William H., Joy Hooten, and Barry Andrews, eds. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. 2nd ed. South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press, 1994

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Michelle J. Smith, 'Moodie Heddle, Enid Olive (1904–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moodie-heddle-enid-olive-27536/text34938, published online 2018, accessed online 19 August 2019.

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