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Mary Grant Bruce (1878–1958) was born in Victoria, Australia, and died in Sussex. She won the Shakespeare Society’s annual prize several times, having started writing at the age of seven, with an epic on a mad Tsar. She then started work as a journalist, continuing to write articles for magazines while she wrote her books. Her publications were many, but her best known series was the Billabong books. The series stretched to 15 titles, starting with A Little Bush Maid in 1910. This first appeared as a serial in The Leader, and with it, the Linton family was launched. Its publication by Ward Lock in London also saw her change of name, Mary being regarded as more saleable than Minnie.
Although Mary Grant Bruce’s own sister-in-law, Lady Evelyn Seton, wrote a denunciation of the books and advised Mary to cut herself free from them, she carried on. The Lintons had become part of Australian national life, and part of how they saw themselves.
“The Lintons' world, threatened from outside, withstood challenge, unchanged and untarnished. Australians, and not only children, looking at Billabong, could see themselves as they wanted to be — mates in fortune and adversity, sturdy, decent and fearless inheritors of a tough, but rewarding land.” (Lynne Strahan)
The books were influential: Auslit says: 'Scholars have argued that Bruce's depiction of the bush in her popular series and other books had an enormous impact on the way white Australians viewed their relationship with the land.' In later editions, the Billabong books have been edited: some of their views and assumptions are no longer considered acceptable.
Mary Grant Bruce married an English man, George Bruce, and the family moved between Europe and Australia several times. After visiting England in 1954, five years after the death of her husband, Mary Grant Bruce decided to stay, and she died in Sussex in 1958.
Sources and links
Australian Dictionary of Biography (entry by Lynne Strahan)
Australian Women: biographical entry
More on the Billabong series
Three (at the time of writing) Billabong books are on Project Gutenberg (A Little Bush Maid, Mates at Billabong, Back to Billabong)
A Little Bush Maid & Mates at Billabong: online (you see the illustrations online on this one)