Joseph Lyons’ Love Letters
Joseph Lyons was elected to the Commonwealth Parliament in 1929 as the Australian Labor Party member for a seat in Tasmania. Two years later he was Prime Minister, representing the United Australia Party, having left the ALP in protest against that party’s Depression economic policies.
The Depression meant a huge increase in unemployment. The major parties disagreed over what they should do. The Labor Government wanted to increase government spending to stimulate economic activity and create jobs. Where would the money come from to do this? From delaying or reducing the payment of debts to British investors and banks. To Lyons, this was irresponsible. He wanted Australia to cut its spending, not increase it, and to pay back debts, not defer them. He split from his party and became leader of the new United Australia Party, and was elected in 1931.
Lyons was a trusted figure. He and his adored wife and confidante, Enid, presented a genuine picture of domestic harmony and security to the Australian public despite the many separations they endured as he commuted from the family home in Tasmania to the Australian capital. They had 12 children together.
Politics rarely produces impassioned romantics, which is just what makes the hundreds of letters Joseph Lyons wrote to Enid as fascinating as they are unexpected. He died in office and Enid went on to become the first female member of the Federal House of Representatives and the first woman in Federal Cabinet.
Joseph Lyons (1879–1939) was Prime Minister of Australia from January 1932 to April 1939. Joseph Lyons’ love letters are held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.
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