Desperately seeking Ethel

Media release: Monday, 26 October 2009

The National Archives is urging Australians to find letters or objects connected to Ethel Bruce, the wife of the nation's eighth Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce, whose story forms part of an exhibition opening at the National Archives in Canberra in December.

Ethel Bruce played an important part in supporting her husband's political career and was influential in the interior design of The Lodge, but little original material about her appears to have survived in Australian collections.

Exhibitions curator with the National Archives Tracey Clarke said, “Ethel Bruce would have received and written many letters in her role as Prime Minister's wife, but there are very few records.

“The Bruces had a very strong relationship and she was with him at every stage of his career, but there is so little known about her. We want to find out if there are people who have stories or items connected to Ethel.” The couple had no children.

Ethel Dunlop Anderson was born in Melbourne on 25 May 1879, one of seven daughters of Andrew George Anderson. She died in 1967. Stanley Melbourne Bruce became Prime Minister in 1923, aged 39. He was High Commissioner in London during World War II, became a British peer as Viscount Lord Bruce of Melbourne and was the first Australian appointed to the House of Lords.

Ms Clarke said if an important item were uncovered, the National Archives would consider putting it on display for the duration of the exhibition Stanley Melbourne Bruce: Prime Minister & Statesman. The exhibition, which opens on 11 December, showcases the rich Bruce collection of objects and personal papers, many on display for the first time.

Tracey Clarke is available for interview and photographs of Ethel Bruce can be downloaded.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017