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Amy Eleanor Mack (1876–1939)

by Nancy Phelan

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Marie Louise Mack

Marie Louise Hamilton Mack (1870-1935) and Amy Eleanor Mack (1876-1939), writers, were born on 10 October 1870 in Hobart Town and on 6 June 1876 at Port Adelaide, daughters of Rev. Hans Hamilton Mack (d.1890), Wesleyan minister from Downpatrick, Ireland, and his wife Jemima (d.1930), née James, from Armagh, whom he had married in Sydney in 1859. Louise, the eldest girl in a family of thirteen, was registered as Mary Louisa. The family, moving from circuit to circuit, left South Australia in 1878, and after three years at Morpeth and Windsor, New South Wales, settled in Sydney in 1882. The sisters were educated by their mother and a governess and at the Sydney Girls' High School, where Louise and her friend Ethel Turner edited rival papers; she drew on her school memories for her books Teens (1897) and Girls Together (1898), published by Angus & Robertson.

After briefly working as a governess Louise became a regular contributor to the Bulletin in the late 1880s, encouraged by J. F. Archibald and A. G. Stephens. On 8 January 1896 she married John Percy Creed (d.1914), a barrister from Dublin; there were no children. The same year Louise's first novel, The World is Round, was published in London. In 1898 she joined the Bulletin staff, writing the 'Woman's Letter' under the pen-name of 'Gouli Gouli'. In 1901, shortly after she had gone abroad without her husband, the Bulletin published her poems, Dreams in Flower.

In England she lived close to starvation while writing her novel, An Australian Girl in London (1902). The book was very well received and she became a protégée of W. T. Stead, writing for his Review of Reviews. She was engaged by Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) as a journalist on the Daily Mail and in 1904 published another novel, Children of the Sun, set in Sydney. She wrote many successful serials, later published in book form, for Harmsworth Press publications, a retrograde literary step from which she made a great deal of money, all of which she quickly spent. She travelled widely, published several popular novels, and for six years lived at Florence, editing the Italian Gazette in 1904-07.

Back in England in 1914 Louise managed to get to Belgium as the first woman war correspondent, reporting for the Evening News and the Daily Mail. Her eye-witness account of the German invasion of Antwerp and her adventures—A Woman's Experiences in the Great War—was published in 1915.

In 1916 she returned to Australia and in 1917-18 toured the country, speaking on her war experiences and raising money for the Australian Red Cross Society. From 1919 to the early 1930s she lectured in the Pacific islands and New Zealand and, in association with the Department of Education and the Good Film League of New South Wales, toured Australia with travel talks and films for schools.

When in Melbourne on 1 September 1924 Louise married 33-year-old Allen Illingworth Leyland (d.1932), a New Zealand Anzac, she claimed to have one living child. These years were very difficult for Louise but she met misfortune with her usual courage and vitality, working as a freelance journalist and publishing two more novels, Teens Triumphant (1933) and Maiden's Prayer (1934). She died on 23 November 1935 at Mosman of cerebro-vascular disease, and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. Described by Le Gay Brereton as fluffy, like a chicken, Louise was fair, pretty, extroverted, audacious, unpredictable, a genuine Bohemian who chose a life of adventure and insecurity. She died possessionless.

Amy Eleanor was dark, less temperamental than Louise and lived more sedately. Soon after leaving school she began work as a journalist and in 1907-14 was editor of the 'Women's Page' of the Sydney Morning Herald. On 29 February 1908 she married Launcelot Harrison; there were no children. She soon published two collections of essays, A Bush Calendar (1909) and Bush Days (1911) which had previously appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, and two very popular children's books, Bushland Stories (1910) and Scribbling Sue, and Other Stories (1915).

With her husband she left in 1914 for England where Launce did postgraduate work at Cambridge. While he served in Mesopotamia, she worked in London as publicity officer for the ministries of munitions and food.

The Harrisons returned to Sydney in 1919 and lived at Gordon in a house full of books, antique furniture and Persian carpets. From 1922 Launce was professor of zoology at the University of Sydney. That year Amy published The Wilderness. She regularly contributed to the literary page of the Sydney Morning Herald, was honorary secretary in 1920-23 of the National Council of Women of New South Wales and accompanied her husband on scientific expeditions. Though she continued to publish occasional articles after he died in 1928, the impulse to write faded as her health declined and on 4 November 1939 she died of arteriosclerosis in St Vincent's Hospital. She was cremated with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Colwell (compiler), The Illustrated History of Methodism, Australia (Syd, 1904)
  • N. Phelan, A Kingdom by the Sea (Syd, 1969)
  • P. Poole (compiler), The Diaries of Ethel Turner (Syd, 1979)
  • A. W. Barker (ed), Dear Robertson (Syd, 1982)
  • B. Niall, Australia Through the Looking Glass: Children's Fiction 1830-1980 (Melb, 1984)
  • Cosmos Magazine, 31 Oct 1895
  • Bulletin, 20 Apr 1901, 24 Jan 1903
  • Lone Hand, May 1907, Dec 1913
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26, 30 Nov 1935, 7, 8 Nov 1939
  • Angus & Robertson papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Louise Mack scrapbooks (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Nancy Phelan, 'Mack, Amy Eleanor (1876–1939)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Amy Mack, by May Moore

Amy Mack, by May Moore

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an3084668

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Harrison, Amy Eleanor

6 June, 1876
Port Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


4 November, 1939 (aged 63)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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Key Organisations