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Maie Casey, Baroness Casey

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Title: Maie Casey, Baroness Casey  
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Subject: Governor-General of Australia, Joan Lindsay, Ellis Rowan, Margaret Sutherland, List of aviators, Spouse of the Governor-General of Australia
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Maie Casey, Baroness Casey

Maie Casey, Baroness Casey AC (13 March 1892 – 20 January 1983) was an Australian pioneer aviatrix, poet, librettist, biographer, memoirist and artist. She was the wife of Richard Casey, Australian politician and diplomat, who served as the Governor of Bengal, Minister for External Affairs, Minister for External Territories, first Australian Ambassador to the United States, Treasurer of Australia and Governor-General of Australia 1965-69.


Ethel Marian Sumner Ryan was born in 1892, the daughter of Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan, a prominent Melbourne surgeon, and his wife, Lady Alice (née Sumner). She became known as "Maie" at an early age. She was always well-connected: she was related by blood or marriage to leading Victorian families, among them the Clarkes, Chirnsides and Grices; one of her father's sisters married Lord Charles Montagu Douglas Scott, son of the 5th Duke of Buccleuch. (The other one was the prominent Australian natural history artist, Ellis Rowan.[1])

Her brother Rupert Ryan, a member of the House of Representatives 1940-52, married Lady Rosemary Hay, daughter of the 21st Earl of Erroll. It has been claimed that Maie Ryan was in love with Rosemary, and persuaded her brother to marry her so that she could maintain a close connection with her.[2]

She wanted to go to university, but was blocked by her father. During World War I, she served as a VAD nurse.

Maie Ryan married Richard Casey on 24 June 1926, at St James's Parish Church, Westminster,London, and supported him in his public life. The Caseys had two children. [3] His career saw them live successively in Canberra, Washington, Cairo, and India where, during the last years of the Raj, she was Vicereine of Bengal. In Washington, D.C. she was an eloquent advocate of the United States joining the Allied cause.

In Egypt she was a confidante of wartime leaders Winston Churchill, Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery and Harold Macmillan as well as an indefatigable war worker; in Bengal she fought to raise the status of Indian women, discussed political affairs with Mahatma Gandhi and became an intimate friend of Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten. As Richard Casey's partner, she was described as ruthless and manipulative in her ambition for him; indeed, so much so that back in Australia Robert Menzies dubbed her "Lady Macbeth". One friend described her as "predatory". On the other hand, Sir Edward Dunlop described her as "immeasurably Australia's greatest woman".

Her writings include a biography of Dame Nellie Melba, three autobiographies, and the libretto to Margaret Sutherland's opera The Young Kabbarli. She became the patron of the Australian Women Pilots' Association (AWPA) at its inaugural meeting at Bankstown on 16 September 1950. Her patronage assisted the Association in its attempts to gain widespread recognition and respect.

She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She was a member of the International Committee appointed to judge a work of sculpture to honour the "Unknown Political Prisoner", and she had a long association with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. After Lord Casey's retirement, he and Lady Casey purchased a house built by Eugene von Guerard in East Melbourne, and her last years were spent in Berwick. Lady Casey was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1982[4] and died in January 1983, aged 90.

Glittering Surfaces, a detailed biography of Casey, based on extensive archival research and featuring a critical assessment of her personality and achievements and candidly surveying her relations with her children, husband and other colleagues and intimates, was published by Diane Langmore in 1997.[5]

See also


External links

  • ADB entry for Maie Casey
  • AustLit entry for Maie Casey
  • ADB entry for Sir Charles Ryan
  • Dictionary of Australian Artists Online biography of her art career
  • Obituary in the La Trobe Journal, no. 31 April 1983.

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