Dame Mary Cook

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Mary Cook
Dame Mary Cook 1939.jpg
Mary Cook, 1939
Spouse of the Prime Minister of Australia
In office
24 June 1913 – 17 September 1914
Preceded by Margaret Fisher
Succeeded by Margaret Fisher
Personal details
Born 1863
Died 24 September 1950 (aged 86–87)
Bellevue Hill, New South Wales, Australia
Resting place Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens
Spouse(s) Sir Joseph Cook
(m. 1885; d. 1947)
Children 8, Richard
Relatives Peter Cook (grandson)
Occupation Schoolteacher, humanitarian

Dame Mary Cook, Lady Cook DBE (née Turner; c. 1863 — 24 September 1950) was the wife of Australian Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Cook.[1]


Early years[edit]

Mary Turner was 22 years old and had been a schoolteacher for eight years when she married Joseph Cook in 1885. Beginning as a pupil teacher at Chesterton Girls' School, by 1885 she was an assistant mistress. Like Cook, she came from a Staffordshire mining family. She appears to have had a role in helping both her brothers and her husband to overcome their lack of education. At their Lithgow home, Cook studied in the evenings, moving from writing and grammar to typing and shorthand, and then to book-keeping. He began studying to become a Methodist minister.[citation needed]


By 1891, six years after their marriage and emigration to Australia, the couple had three small sons, and Joseph Cook had a seat in the New South Wales parliament. By 1901 they had six children, and he had won the Parramatta seat in federal parliament. For the 20 years he sat in the federal parliament, Joseph Cook spent much of his time in Melbourne, where parliament sat. Mary Cook managed their large household in Sydney, with eight children born between 1886 and 1906. Cook became Navy Minister in Billy Hughes' government in 1917. Mary Cook was by then very active in the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Red Cross Society, and in Cook's electorate of Parramatta. From the time of her hushband's knighthood in 1918[2] she became Lady Cook and was styled in that way until seven years later when she was honoured in her own right as a Dame.

She spoke at meetings there in the 1919 election campaign, and also deputised at ministerial events, such as the unveiling of an Honour Roll dedicated to the 1914–18 servicemen and women in General Granville Ryrie's Manly electorate.[citation needed]


During her husband's term as High Commissioner, Mary Cook played a key role for the Australian Red Cross Society, including representing the Society at a meeting of the International Red Cross Board of Governors in Paris in 1923.[citation needed]


Mary Cook's services to Australia were acknowledged when she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1925.


The Cooks returned to Australia in 1927, enjoying an active retirement. In 1928, on the foundation of the Newington College Parents' and Friends' Association, Dame Mary was elected president. In the first year of the association £300 was raised for equipment and improvements to the school's hospital. Four generations of the Cook family, including her son, Richard Cecil Cook, and grandson, Peter Cook, attended Newington.[3]


Sir Joseph Cook died in 1947, and Dame Mary Cook died on 24 September 1950, aged 87, at her Bellevue Hill, New South Wales. She was interred beside her husband at Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens, North Ryde, New South Wales.


  1. ^ National Archives Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  2. ^ "No. 30831". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 August 1918. p. 9264. 
  3. ^ Newington Across the Years, A History of Newington College, 1863-1998 (Sydney, 1999), pg. 79