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Carmichael, Grace Elizabeth Jennings (1867 - 1904)

24 February 1867
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
9 February 1904
Leyton, England
Nurse and Poet
Alternative Names
  • Carmichael, Jennings (Pseudonym)
  • Mullis, Grace Elizabeth Jennings (Married Name)


Grace Carmichael worked as a nurse and poet, and during her lifetime contributed many poems to newspapers and published her own book of verse in 1895. Grace is best known by her pen name Jennings Carmichael. The Australian poets Henry Lawson and Henry Tate have both written poems about her.


Grace Elizabeth Jennings Carmichael was born in Ballarat to parents Margaret Jennings (née Clark) and Archibald Carmichael, a pioneer miner. Margaret and Archibald were originally from England and Scotland, respectively. In the 1860s two of Grace Carmichael's siblings died in infancy, and in 1870, Archibald Carmichael died aged 51. His widow remarried in 1975 to Charles Naylor Henderson. The family moved from Ballarat to Gippsland, where Charles Henderson worked near Orbost. It was here that Grace Carmichael most likely began writing her poetry, inspired by the surrounding Gippsland bush. Her early works were published by the Bairnsdale Advertiser and the Weekly Times, and it was in Australasian that she first used her penname Jennings Carmichael. In 1888, at the age of 21, she began training as a nurse at the Melbourne Hospital for Sick Children. Her experiences at this hospital would be told in her 1891 novel, Hospital Children. She became a qualified nurse in 1890 and worked in Geelong. A book of verse entitled Poems was published in Australia and England in 1895. That same year, she married Francis Mullis, an English architect. They lived in South Australia for some time before moving to England. In England, the couple and their six children lived in poverty. Three of these children predeceased Jennings Carmichael, and she herself died in 1904 of pneumonia. Her three remaining children were left impoverished in a workhouse. In 1910, a group of Carmichael's admirers brough these children to Victoria, whereupon they took their mother's maiden name. In the late 1930s, plaques were unveiled in Orbost and Ballarat in honor of Jennings Carmichael.

Sources used to compile this entry: Gardiner, Lyndsay, 'Carmichael, Grace Elizabeth Jennings (1867-1914)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,

Christine Donald

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