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Trist, Margaret Bethesda (1914–1986)

by Vivienne Muller

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Margaret Bethesda Trist (1914-1986), author, was born on 27 October 1914 at Dalby, Queensland, daughter of Olga Hargreaves Lucas. ‘Peg’ lived with her mother’s family at Dalby and received her education at St Columba’s Convent, where her teachers encouraged her interest in observing and recording the people and places around her. She began writing when she was young, stimulated by her family’s stories and her close reading of past issues of the Bulletin. With family members she moved regularly between the contrasting worlds of Dalby and Sydney.

Settling in Sydney in 1931, Peg worked at clerical jobs for a short time, before marrying Frank Mumford Trist, a clerk, on 2 December 1933 at St Peter’s Church of England, Neutral Bay. She had met him at a meeting of the Junior Literary Society. With the exception of some time spent at Blaxland in the Blue Mountains in the early years of World War II, she lived most of her life on Sydney’s lower North Shore. In the early years of her marriage she devoted herself to writing and raising her family.

The Bulletin published Trist’s short story ‘New Year’s Day’ on 14 October 1936 and continued to be an outlet for her into the 1940s and later. In 1938 she was one of ten recipients of the short-story prize in the Literary Committee of Australia’s 150th anniversary literary competition. Her stories appeared also in ABC Weekly, Australian New Writing, Young Australia, Home, Daily Mirror and the Sydney Morning Herald and were represented in a number of anthologies. She produced two collections of short stories: In the Sun (1943) and What Else is There? (1946).

Trist next published two novels Now That We’re Laughing (1945), which appeared in the United States of America as Sun on the Hills, and Daddy (1947). She was awarded Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowships in 1953 and 1968. In the mid-1950s she worked at the Australian Broadcasting Commission, including a period as a script assistant to the broadcaster John Thompson. Her last published novel, Morning in Queensland (1958), reissued as Tansy (1991), was written for young adults and was highly commended in the Dame Mary Gilmore awards. Trist’s papers, held by the National Library of Australia, include drafts of three unpublished novels. Most of her narratives, which emphasised the domestic and everyday lives of her characters, exuded a regional flavour that positioned them firmly within a Queensland rural locale.

A sometime member of PEN, Trist was an early contributor to Southerly, publishing a short story in each of the first two issues in 1942. She was an active member from 1942 of the Sydney branch of the English Association, serving (1956-86) on its executive committee. With the exception of R. G. Geering’s article on Trist in Southerly, literary analysis of her work is rare. She and Frank had a wide circle of friends whom they enjoyed entertaining at their home. Predeceased (1980) by her husband and survived by her son and daughter, she died on 2 March 1986 at St Leonards and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Southerly, vol 46, no 4, 1986, p 467
  • V. Muller, ‘“I Have My Own History": Queensland Women Writers from 1939 to the Present’, Queensland Review, vol 18, no 2, 2001, p 69
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Apr 1938, p 12, 4 Mar 1986, p 25
  • H. de Berg, interview with M. Trist (typescript, 1964, National Library of Australia)
  • Trist papers (National Library of Australia)
  • www.publicmemory.org/ToowoombaLiteraryHistory/writerTrist.htm (accessed 17 Nov 2009, copy held on ADB file).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Vivienne Muller, 'Trist, Margaret Bethesda (1914–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/trist-margaret-bethesda-15566/text26778, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 18 September 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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