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Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888-1960)


Ida Sherbourne Rentoul Outhwaite (1888-1960)

The originality of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite lies in the way that she grafted elements of the Australian outback onto the English fairy tradition and so created a mythology that is at once national and personal.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite was born Ida Rentoul in Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on 9 June 1888, the younger of the two surviving children of the Reverend John Lawrence Rentoul, a Presbyterian minister and professor of theology at Ormond College, University of Melbourne, and his wife, Annie (née Rattray). She was educated at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Melbourne, where she proved herself to be academically brilliant.

In 1903, at the age of 15, Ida began to work closely with her writer sister, Annie, and in that year they contributed six illustrated fairy stories to the weekly magazine,
The New Idea: A Woman’s Home Journal for Australasia. They refined their collaboration in the following year in their first book, Mollie and the Bunyip, which was well received. The collaboration was then developed in the first of their famous songbooks, Australian Songs for Young and Old, with music by Georgette Peterson, which was launched at the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, Melbourne, in October 1907. In the December of the same year, the sisters produced a pantomime book, The Story of the Pantomime Humpty Dumpty, to accompany a production at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, for which Ida had designed the costumes.

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Fairy & Fantasy