Book: Merlyn - The Life of Merlyn Baillieu Myer
The illustrious life of Merlyn Baillieu Myer (1900–1982) spanned more than three-quarters of the twentieth century. Born in Queenscliff, on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, the third of four children of a prosperous family of hoteliers, Merlyn was propelled from being a shy and timid child into becoming one of Australia’s grandest, most celebrated philanthropic and social figures.
Her life was transformed when, in San Francisco on her twentieth birthday in 1920, Merlyn married department-store magnate Sidney Myer. She became a society hostess; a travel companion; and the mother to their four children, all born by the end of the decade. Together, Merlyn and Sidney bought a home in Toorak, which they named Cranlana. Together, they consolidated the identity of the Store (as the family called the Myer Emporium) into a formidable business. Together, they lived and loved life to the full.
Then, without warning, in September 1934, Sidney died. The widowed Merlyn, left with a young family, practically reinvented herself. In the process, over the next half-century until her death in 1982, she carried the Myer flame and the Myer name. Inheriting Sidney’s mantle, Merlyn became both a matriarch and ‘Mother of the Store’, renowned equally for her pragmatic business sense and empathy in dealing with human problems.
But Dame Merlyn (as she became) was not only a woman of the world (a world she navigated many times, from the age of trans-Pacific steamers to the age of Concorde) but also her own woman – carrying an innate sense of elegance and style coupled with an extraordinary spirit of generosity that never wavered. Almost forty years after her death, Merlyn’s philanthropic influence still resounds deeply within her family.
Michael Shmith’s detailed and telling biography finally brings long-deserved attention to a relatively distant and elusive figure, her story now unfolding with grace and clarity. Through the memories of those who knew her and shared her history, her own copious correspondence and meticulous archival research by historian Dr Stella M Barber, the real Merlyn emerges from the shadows – in all her grandeur and glory.
About the Author
Michael Shmith is a Melbourne-born writer and editor. For many years he was on the staff of The Age. He contributes regularly to Opera magazine in the United Kingdom and locally to Australian Book Review . He is the author of Cranlana, the First 100 Years: the house, the garden and the people (Hardie Grant, 2019).
Dimensions: 23.4cm x 18.0cm x 3.3cm