Mrs Prime Minister - discover the woman behind the title

Date: 17/08/2009

Images and personal documents that provide a rare glimpse into the lives of our former prime minister's wives will be on display for all Sydneysiders when the exhibition Mrs Prime Minister - Public Image, Private Lives opens in September, hosted by the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney, and displayed in the gallery of the historic Female Orphan School on the Parramatta campus.

From Friday 11 September until Friday 2 October, the Whitlam Institute is hosting the first Sydney showing of the touring version of Mrs Prime Minister, an exhibition from the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

The exhibition explores the lives of former prime minister's wives and the unique style and contribution each brought to the position. It looks at the realities of being married to one of the nation's most powerful men-including the difficulties of trying to balance public and private life, the glamour, the hardships, the passions, and of course, the politics.

The exhibition features rarely before seen images and reproduced personal documents from Australia's national institutions and the personal collections of former prime ministers' wives. The collection includes love letters spanning 20 years between former Prime Minister Joe Lyons and his wife Enid, as well as a letter from Pattie Deakin expressing her loneliness.

"The Whitlam Institute has seized the opportunity to bring the Mrs Prime Minister exhibition to the Female Orphan School. This exhibition provides a particular insight into our country's democratic history and more particularly the changing role of women in that history," says Eric Sidoti, Director of the Whitlam Institute.

"It is fitting that an exhibition showcasing the public and private lives of prominent Australian women is held in a building promoted by Mrs Macquarie and that tells the story of the very different lives of earlier Australians who resided there during the long institutional history of the building."

Curator Sharon Bulkeley said, "The role of Prime Minister's wife is an ambiguous one. It has no clear definition or boundary, and holds no formal authority. As such, of the 25 women who have occupied the position since 1901, each has interpreted the role according to her own style and personality, and with her own agenda".

Open from September 11 to October 2, 2009
10am - 4pm, Monday to Saturday
Female Orphan School Gallery (Building EZ), Parramatta Campus, University of Western Sydney
General Admission $5.00 (incl. GST)

For more information please contact Amy Sambrooke at the Whitlam Institute on 02 9685 9072 or, or visit

On 9 May 2009 Old Parliament House became the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House



Senior Media Officer

Paul Grocott
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