Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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Maxwell, May (Maisie) (1876 - 1977)


8 October 1876
Sandhurst, Victoria, Australia
24 July 1977
Jolimont, Victoria, Australia
Actor, Journalist, Print Journalist, Radio Journalist, Trade unionist and Women's rights activist


May Maxwell began her professional life as an actor but switched to journalism in 1907 when she discovered that it was a more stable career option than the theatre.


Starting her career at Table Talk where she earned ten shillings a week, in 1910 Maxwell moved to edit the Melbourne Herald's weekly page for women. At the end of 1921 (Sir) Keith Murdoch asked her to make the page a daily feature.

Maxwell was an advocate for women's issues and her journalism was characterized by initiative, plain talking and impatience with silly social niceties. Although she covered the high-society round of balls, parties and royal tours, she insisted on writing her notes openly, and on being allowed to wear evening dress and to mingle with guests at Government House. She interviewed female prisoners, campaigned to have nurses' training cut by one year, and championed those women in public life who did more than go to parties. Throughout her twenty-four years with the Herald, she was closely associated with the National Council of Women.

In 1911, within four months of its foundation, Maxwell joined the Australian Journalists' Association as its second female member. She served (1925-27) on the A.J.A.'s Victorian committee and became an honorary life member (1960). In 1969 she was awarded the British Empire medal for her services to journalism. She retired from the Herald in May 1934, but continued to freelance for print and radio outlets until the day before she died in 1977.


1907 - 1934
Career in journalism active
Joined the Australian Journalists' Association
1925 - 1927
Membership of the Victorian Committee of the Australian Journalists' Association
Awarded life membership of Australian Journalists' Association

Sources used to compile this entry: White, Sally A., 'Maxwell, May (Maisie) (1876-1977)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,

Nikki Henningham

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