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Enid Emily Moon (1900–1999)

by Yves Rees

This article was published online in 2024

Enid Emily Moon (1900–1999), proofreader and copyeditor, was born on 29 March 1900 in Sydney, eldest of three children of English-born Ernest Gillman Moon, dentist, and his New South Wales-born wife Lillias Holte, née Phillips. At Enid’s birth, the family lived behind dental offices on Macquarie Street, but later moved to the North Shore suburb of Roseville, before relocating to Moss Vale in the southern highlands. Her upbringing was characterised by ‘an atmosphere of tension’ (Moon c. 1975, 9); her father was an ‘irascible’ (Moon c. 1975, 9) disciplinarian who raised his offspring on corporal punishment and strict church attendance. She commenced her education at a dame school at Woollahra, then attended Roseville Girls’ College. After several failed attempts to find appropriate schooling at Moss Vale and elsewhere, she became a boarder at Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School (SCEGGS), Bowral. For her Leaving certificate, she relocated to SCEGGS, Darlinghurst. In 1918 she enrolled at the University of Sydney (BA, 1921). Her family valued education and hoped she would become a teacher, but she was determined to avoid the classroom. Following her graduation, she endured one six-week stint as a fill-in teacher, but soon found her true metier as a ‘galley slave’ (Moon 1991).

Moon’s career began in March 1922, after she answered a job advertisement for a proofreader at Building Ltd, a publisher of trade magazines run by a married couple, George and Florence Taylor. Despite her complete ignorance of proofreading, she was hired on the spot, and began work at 20 Loftus Street the next day. There she learnt on the job, working under Florence, a ‘very commanding lady’ (Moon 1998) who was one of Australia’s first female architects. Later Moon took her proofreading skills to Mosman Daily Ltd, a firm that published the free newspapers the Mosman Daily and the Great Northern. The only woman employee, she laboured among male machinists on the printing floor, and relished the opportunity to learn about printing processes. Her tenure at the company came to an end in 1930, when she broke her foot and collarbone in a car accident after a raucous party. It was only one of several accidents; in one crash, she reportedly lost an eye. During the Depression, she struggled to find work, and was largely unemployed for two years.

In 1932 Moon began a forty-year career at the printing firm Halstead Press, a subsidiary of Angus & Robertson Ltd. Hired as a proofreader, she worked at Halstead’s Surry Hills headquarters, and also spent time at the Angus & Robertson offices on Castlereagh Street. As a proofreader, she worked with a copyholder, whose task was to read aloud from the original manuscript while Moon followed the typeset proof and marked up errors. The job also involved fact checking and reading with an eye for questions of libel and censorship. Standards were high; no more than three errors per book were allowed. During her long career, she proofed books by many notable Australian authors, including Eleanor Dark, Frank Clune, Ion Idriess, and Nino Culotta (John O’Grady). In 1957 Halstead moved to new premises at Kingsgrove, where the following year she was promoted to the role of copyeditor.

Outside work, Moon was a bohemian who rebelled from the conservative milieu of her youth. She disdained marriage, describing the institution as ‘a very uninteresting state’ (Moon c. 1975, 14). Determinedly independent, she enjoyed a ‘rather wild’ (Moon 1991, 9) social life with fellow freethinkers, combined with a series of affairs. In her view, men were ‘all right to work with, be friends with and make love with,’ but ‘I could not bear one around me twenty-four hours a day’ (Moon c. 1975, 14). As an adult she also shunned organised religion and conservative politics, giving her vote to the Australian Labor Party. After remaining in the family home into adulthood, she moved into her own flat in the late 1930s, following her mother’s death. She rented at Kirribilli and Bondi, then in 1959 bought a Kirribilli flat. Apart from one six-month stint sharing a house and a bed with two men, she lived alone. A keen traveller, she undertook several tours of Britain and Europe from the late 1950s onwards.

From the late 1960s, Halstead went into decline as Australian printing moved offshore to Asia. With reduced demand for her services, Moon decided to retire. She left Halstead in March 1972, fifty years after her proofreading career began, but continued to work freelance until 1982. Even after ceasing paid work, she remained active. She volunteered as a librarian at Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre and regularly swam at Balmoral Beach. In 1991 she published Memoirs of a Galley Slave, an overview of her career. She died on 10 October 1999 at Lindfield, and was cremated.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Knaggs, Doug. ‘Enid Moon.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 30 October 1999, 46
  • Moon, Enid. Interview by Neil James, 1998. State Library of New South Wales
  • Moon, Enid. Memoirs of a Galley Slave: A Proof-Reader Looks Back. Sydney: Book Collectors’ Society of Australia, 1991
  • Moon, Enid. ‘Myself When Young.’ Unpublished manuscript, c. 1975. State Library of New South Wales

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Yves Rees, 'Moon, Enid Emily (1900–1999)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moon-enid-emily-33317/text41579, published online 2024, accessed online 13 July 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Birth

29 March, 1900
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Death

10 October, 1999 (aged 99)
Lindfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

pneumonia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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