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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mansom, Dorothy Mary (1905–1978)

by Suzanne Edgar

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Dorothy Mary Mansom (1905-1978), equestrienne, was born on 2 June 1905 at Hyde Park, Adelaide, elder child of Arthur James Mansom, a South Australian-born commercial traveller who became a publican, and his wife Anastasia, née Granleese. Dot left school at 15 and pencilled for her father who doubled as a bookmaker at the Supreme Court Hotel. In her spare time she attended the Hyde Park School of Music. Tall, dark-haired and blue-eyed, she took minor roles with the South Australian Opera Company and in 1924-26 studied singing at the Elder Conservatorium of Music.

In 1927 Mansom appeared in the chorus of Rigoletto with the Italo-Australian Grand Opera Company at Broken Hill, New South Wales. She toured with operas to Melbourne and Western Australia, and performed at Adelaide cinemas. On weekends she taught riding, which helped to keep her cheerful. During the Depression she worked in turn at the Port Adelaide Bacon Factory and at Parisian Mantle Manufacturers Pty Ltd, and produced beauty contests and mannequin parades. Transferred successively to Sydney and Melbourne for two years, she returned to Adelaide as buyer and manageress of the mantle department at Miller Anderson Ltd's Hindley Street store, and helped to support her mother and brother.

During World War II Mansom rose from senior manager to investigating officer with the drapery section of the State branch of the Rationing Commission. She made radio broadcasts on rationing and gained equal status with her male colleagues. At the Pirie Street Methodist Church on 30 June 1950 she married Clarence Henry Gray, a manager and a divorcee whom she had loved since girlhood. Dorothy continued to work as a part-time proof-reader with Clem Taylor Advertising Service Ltd until she was 71.

After the war she bought a former racehorse, Antonym, re-formed the South Adelaide Riding Club and served as its secretary. She also became secretary of the Horse Riding Clubs' Association. Having learned all she could about dressage, she popularized it with the riding public. In 1949 she and Tom Roberts established the Dressage Club of South Australia which was to affiliate with the Equestrian Federation of Australia. Dressage events were included in the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia's 1950 show. On Elkedra, Mansom won a blue ribbon: they executed a figure eight, side passaging, reining back and cantering on a nominated leg, and were judged best turned-out horse and rider.

Mansom was a member of the executive of the local Light Horse Association and numerous other riding clubs. Accustomed to using a megaphone when training riders, she sang operatic airs while exercising her animals in the parklands or on the beach. She helped to organize Australian Olympic Federation horse trials in South Australia and proved an astute judge. The 1978 inter-club competition, which included a Dorothy Mansom trophy, was the last she arranged. Survived by her husband, she died on 6 November that year in Adelaide and was buried in West Terrace cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Couch-Keen (compiler), Equestrienne Australis (Springton, SA, 1990)
  • Hoofs and Horns, Jan 1979
  • private information.

Citation details

Suzanne Edgar, 'Mansom, Dorothy Mary (1905–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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