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23 January 2010

Ethel Turner (Ethel Mary Turner)

Ethel Mary Turner was born on 24 January 1870 in Doncaster, England, the second child of Bennett George Burwell and his wife Sarah Jane, née Shaw. When Burwell died Sarah Jane married widower Henry Turner and they had one daughter together, before Turner died in 1878. In 1879 Mrs Turner emigrated with her young family to Australia and in 1880 she married Charles Cope and they had one son. Ethel was educated at the Sydney Girls’ High School, where she formed a friendship with Louise Mack. For three years she founded and co-edited the Parthenon, with her sister, Lilian. In 1893 she edited the Children’s Page of the Illustrated Sydney News, then the Children’s Page of the Australian Town and Country Journal until 1919 (ADB 290). Her first book, Seven Little Australians, was published in 1894 by Ward, Lock & Co., and quickly became an Australian classic. Ethel’s sister, Lilian, also became a children’s author. Ethel married barrister, Herbert Raine Curlewis, in 1896. They had two children, a daughter, Jean, born in 1898, and a son, Adrian, born in 1901. From 1921 to 1931 she edited the Sunday Sun’s Children’s Page, ‘Sunbeams’. During her prolific career she wrote 34 novels, her last, Judy and Punch, published in 1928. Her daughter’s death two years later in 1930 marked the end of her writing career. Jean had written 4 children’s novels for Ward, Lock & Co. Ethel died on 8 April 1958 in Mosman, New South Wales.

Further Reading
Turner, Ethel, and Philippa Poole. The Diaries of Ethel Turner. Sydney: Lansdowne, 1998.
Yarwood, A. T. From a Chair in the Sun: The Life of Ethel Turner. Ringwood, Vic.: Viking, 1994.

Ethel Turner from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Judy and Punch. London: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1928. 256 pages. Illustrated 'Harold Copping', b/w frontis. & 3 b/w illus.

More than thirty years after Seven Little Australians was published in 1894, Turner began writing a book about Judy Woolcott’s schooldays, at the request of two admirers, setting the story during the events of the previous novel. Judy and Punch was the last children’s novel Turner wrote, and the only school story out of some thirty-four titles. In Judy and Punch, Judy is sent off to Pinedale, a country boarding school with 40 pupils in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, run by three sisters, the Misses Burton. A number of other Australian girls’ school stories were set in private venture schools run by three sisters, three seeming to be the operative number of sisters to run a school, including the Misses Dimsdale in Mackness’ Di-Double-Di, and the Misses Maynard in Pyke’s The Lone Guide of Merfield. These small family-run private venture schools flourished in Australia in the early twentieth century. The three sisters in Judy and Punch and their varying personalities are colourfully sketched by Turner. The elder Miss Burton is a strict disciplinarian, sharing the teaching duties with the motherly Miss Marian, while the slightly eccentric Miss Flora manages the housekeeping.

The main incident of the novel is when Punch, a small boy Judy befriended on the train journey to school, attempts to run away, and Judy breaks bounds to deliver him safely back to school. She is punished when she returns to school as she cannot explain her absence since she had promised the boy’s master she would not tell anyone. She is eventually released from her punishment when the master intervenes on her behalf. This motif of keeping one’s word or promise despite risk of punishment is a typical school honour code ideal used in many school stories. The story concludes with Judy arriving back at Misrule after an adventurous journey home owing to a lost train ticket.

Judy and Punch was reprinted by Ward, Lock & Co. in 1948.


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