Biography of Judith Wright

Judith Arundell Wright was an Australian poet, famed for her modern verses on nature and Aboriginal culture. She is often referred to as “the conscience of the nation” and is only one of two Australian poets who has been considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Wright was born on May 31, 1915 in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, to a wealthy pastoral family. Her ancestors were among the first Europeans to settle that area, which is something that appears as a concern in Wright's poems. Educated at home as a child, she then went to the New England Girls’ School and attended college at the University of Sydney. She worked in advertising and administration, but also began cultivating her literary art. She helped publish a literary journal, Meanjin, and began lecturing part-time at universities throughout the country. In 1967 she became an honors tutor in English at the University of Queensland, Brisbane.

Wright published her poetry in magazines beginning in 1945. Her early published collections included The Moving Image (1946), Woman to Man (1949), The Gateway (1953), The Two Fires (1955), The Other Half (1966), and Alive (1973). She also wrote short stories, collected in The Nature of Love in 1966, and children’s books. Her writing won her the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, the second Australian to achieve that honor, as well as dozens of other awards, fellowships, and honorary doctorates.

Wright campaigned for land conservation and Aboriginal land rights, helping form the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland and the Aboriginal Treaty Committee, the latter dedicated to raising awareness about the need for land rights and a treaty among white Australians. She worked to protect the Great Barrier Reef and protested the proliferation of nuclear power.

During her twenties she began to progressively lose her hearing. She married philosopher Jack McKinney, twenty-three years her senior, and they lived together for twenty years until Jack died in 1966. In 1976, Wright moved to the remote heritage town of Braidwood and lived in what was more or less a wildlife refuge.

Wright died on June 25, 2000, at the age of 85.

Study Guides on Works by Judith Wright

Judith Wright was a prominent Australian writer known for her poetry, criticism, and activism. Originally published in the 1966 collection The Other Half, "Eve to Her Daughters" presents the biblical Eve as a speaker addressing her daughters (the...

Judith Wright was an important Australian poet, critic, and environmentalist who entwined her artistry with her activism. "Train Journey," published in the 1953 collection The Gateway, is about the relationship between the speaker and the country...

Judith Wright was an Australian poet and critic known for writing as well as her campaigns for peace, environmental conservation, and Aboriginal land rights. In "Woman to Man," published in the 1949 collection of the same name, a woman ponders the...