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Ethel Bruce

Among the many homes SM Bruce and Ethel Bruce shared during their 54 years of marriage was The Lodge, the brand-new and ‘temporary’ official residence of Australia’s prime ministerial family.

Ethel Bruce, London, 1923

Ethel Bruce, photographed for the British Daily Graphic, in London in 1923.

NAA: A1486, 1, p. 18

The Bruces moved to The Lodge on 4 May 1927, leaving their own 16-room mansion ‘Pine Hill’ in Frankston, in the Flinders electorate. Most other Canberra households were also newly establishing their homes and gardens. Thousands of people were relocated from Melbourne to Canberra as part of the official transfer of the seat of government on 9 May 1927, the day of the formal opening of the provisional Parliament House.

The Lodge was designed by architectural firm Oakley & Parkes, and furnished by Myers of Melbourne interior designer Ruth Lane-Poole. Among the items the Bruces brought to The Lodge were the official gifts they had received in England in 1923.

SM Bruce and Ethel Bruce, The Lodge, 1928

SM Bruce and Ethel Bruce at the rear pergola of the brand-new Lodge in February 1928.

NAA: A1200, L83837

From the outset it was clear that running The Lodge was one of many unpaid duties of a prime ministerial wife. Ethel Bruce, responsible for the hire of staff, brought Maude Holskamp and Myrtle Wood from Melbourne to work as cook and housemaid. Paying their wages presented a lengthy challenge as the various departments sorted out a procedure. Ethel Bruce made these payments herself for some time, creating a further complication over departmental process for refunding this amount to the Prime Minister’s wife.

From the National Archives of Australia collection

Prime Minister’s Lodge Staff, 1926–50, Part 1, NAA: A461, G4/1/12 PART 1

Residence for the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, 1926, NAA: A6006, 1926/07/05

Construction of Prime Minister’s Residence at Canberra, 1925–31, NAA: A1, 1930/8156

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