Birthday Book, c.1919
Dame Mary Hughes (1874-1958)
Width: 15cm Height: 20cm Depth: 2.5cm
This book belonged to Dame Mary Hughes, the second wife of the former Australian Prime Minister W.M.Hughes (1915-1923). It is a simple brown leather-bound volume. She dated each page and invited both famous and lesser known people of the twentieth century to sign the book on the page corresponding to their birthday between 1919 and 1951. The autographs include King George V and Queen Mary, Banjo Patterson, Eleanor Roosevelt, William Randolph Hearst, Sir Isaac Isaacs, Lord Louis Mountbatten, H.V. Evatt, Sir Anthony Eden, Queen Elizabeth II, Field Marshall Montgomery and Helen Keller. There were also quotes supplied by various contributors such as Cheerfulness is the sunny ray of life (Genevieve Hard July 19th, 1921).
During a trip to England in 1916 with her husband, Dame Mary became known for her concerns for the welfare of and kindness towards wounded Australian soldiers. This reputation earned her the nick-name of 'the diggers' friend. Her devotion to these soldiers and her services during the war were recognised in 1922 when Mary was awarded a Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. This was the highest award available to women of the Empire and she was the first Australian to receive this award.