Nancy Keesing

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Nancy Keesing AM (7 September 1923 – 19 January 1993) was an Australian poet, writer, editor and promoter of Australian literature.

Early life[edit]

Nancy Keesing was born in Sydney, Australia and attended school at Sydney Church of England Girls' Grammar School (SCEGGS) and the Frensham School (Mittagong) [1] During WW2 she worked as a naval account clerk on Garden Island in Sydney Harbour. After the war she enrolled in social sciences at the University of Sydney, and then worked as a social worker at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Camperdown (1947–1951).

Literary career[edit]

From about 1952 she worked full-time as a writer and researcher with The Bulletin magazine. She mainly worked with Douglas Stewart, particularly to research and collect historical Australian songs and bush ballads.

She was active in a number of literary associations, most notably the Australian Society of Authors. She edited the ASA journal The Australian Author from 1971 to 1974. She was chair of the Literature Board, Australia Council, 1974–1977. She was also active in the English Association and the Australian Jewish Historical Society. She became a council member of the Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education.

Her literary career covered several fields, including poetry, literary criticism, editing, children's novels and biography. One of her most well known works is Shalom, a collection of Australian Jewish stories. She wrote or edited 26 volumes. She wrote two memoirs: Garden Island People, about her work on Garden Island, and Riding the Elephant, mainly about her literary career.

Personal life[edit]

She married Dr Mark Hertzberg, a chemical engineer with CSR, and they had two children. They lived next to Kylie Tennant and her family for 20 years in Hunters Hill.

Awards and legacy[edit]

Keesing was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 1979 Australian Day Honours for service to literature.[2]

The annual Nancy Keesing Fellowship was founded by her husband in her honour. It is for research on aspects of Australian life and culture using the resources and archives of the State Library of New South Wales.[3]



Year Title Imprint ISBN/OCLC
1951 Imminent Summer Lyre Bird Writers OCLC 427556527
1955 Three Men and Sydney Angus & Robertson OCLC 1063169392
1968 Showground Sketchbook and Other Poems OCLC 902707261
1977 Hails and Farewells Edwards & Shaw ISBN 0855510048
1993 The Woman I Am: Poems (co-authored with Meg Stewart) State Library of NSW Press ISBN 0730589242


Year Title Imprint ISBN/OCLC
1963 By Gravel and Gum: A Story of a Pioneer Family Macmillan OCLC 220424979
1974 The Golden Dream Collins ISBN 0001850059
1988 Shalom, Australian Jewish Stories Penguin Books ISBN 9780140112269


Year Title Imprint ISBN/OCLC
1965 Elsie Carew: Australian Primitive Poet Wentworth Press OCLC 500187268
1967 Gold Fever: The Australian Goldfields 1851 to the 1890s Angus & Robertson OCLC 458667
1969 Douglas Stewart Oxford University Press OCLC 1014545877
1975 Garden Island People Wentworth Books ISBN 0855870923
1977 The White Chrysanthemum: Changing Images of Australian Motherhood Angus & Robertson ISBN 0207135177
1979 John Lang & "The forger's wife": A True Tale of Early Australia Ferguson ISBN 0909134197
1980 The Kelly Gang Summit Books ISBN 0727105159
1981 History of the Australian Gold Rushes By Those Who Were There (editor) Angus & Robertson ISBN 0207133549
1985 Lily on the Dustbin: Slang of Australian Women and Families Penguin Books ISBN 0140066349
1977 Just Look Out the Window ISBN 0140074953
1988 Riding the Elephant Allen & Unwin ISBN 0041500873


  1. ^ Nancy Keesing (AustLit) Accessed: 23 January 2007.
  2. ^ "KEESING, Nancy Florence". Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  3. ^ Keesing, Nancy. "Nancy Keesing papers, 1913-1993" (1913-1993) [manuscripts]. Nancy Keesing papers, 1913-1993, Series: 422939, File: NSW, Aus: Dixson Collection, State Library of New South Wales.

External links[edit]