May Gibbs

May Gibbs (1877-1969) MBE

Cecilia May Gibbs was one of Australia’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators and is best known today for the iconic Australian children’s story, The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, featuring two gumnut babies and their escape from the big bad Banksia men.

May Gibbs was born on 17 January 1877 in Sydenham, Kent, in England to parents Herbert Gibbs and Cecilia Rogers. She migrated with her family to Australia when she was four years old, settling in Perth, Western Australia. After several journeys back to England to pursue her artistic interests, May finally settled in Sydney, Australia in 1913. Here she designed covers for magazines, provided illustrations, designed postcards and published the first of her gumnut books, Gumnut Babies. Following her marriage in 1919 to mining agent, James Ossoli Kelly, the couple moved into Nutcote, the house designed for them by architect BJ Waterhouse in Neutral Bay, on the shores of Sydney Harbour, in 1925.

May continued her career as an author and illustrator, writing numerous other stories and publishing her popular weekly comic strips Bib and Bub and Tiggy Touchwood for many years. Her work remained extremely popular. After the death of her husband in 1939, she lived on at Nutcote with her dogs, (mainly Scots Terriers), publishing her last book Prince Dande Lion in 1953. She died without having had children, in 1969, leaving her estate to UNICEF, the Spastic Centre of NSW (now Cerebral Palsy Alliance) and the NSW Society for Crippled Children (now Northcott Disability Services.)

Further reading

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