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Page, Diana (1922–2009)

by Sue Page

Diana Page, one of the last of Dr Herbert Vere Evatt’s original ‘‘quiz kids’’ selected for Australia’s diplomatic service, has died in Canberra Hospital, aged 86.

In 1943, from a field of more than 1500 applicants, she was selected as one of three women among the first 12 diplomatic staff cadets for the professional diplomatic service being established by Dr Evatt, then minister for external affairs (they are pictured together). The group came to be known as ‘‘Dr Evatt’s quiz kids’’.

Diana would later add another first of sorts — perhaps the first Australian diplomat to give up her citizenship — when she took out United States citizenship following her marriage to an American. At the time she was a keen marksman and could not get a gun licence as an ‘‘alien’’ in the US.

Following her selection as a cadet diplomat, Diana received a letter of congratulations from the League of Women Voters for her pioneering achievement.

Controversy surrounded these appointments. Many predicted that all three women would marry and ‘‘waste’’ the investment made in their training — wastage made all the more likely under the ‘‘marriage bar’’ that applied to female public servants at that time. But Diana was her own woman and refused to accept the gender-based mindset of the times.

Born in Woollahra in Sydney’s eastern suburbs to Hilda and Clement Hodgkinson, a company director, Diana attended Kambala School, where she excelled academically and in sport and was head girl. She went on to take first-class honours in history at Sydney University. She also competed in equestrian events at the Royal Easter Show, and served as a volunteer in the Women’s Australian National Service (WANS).

Her civic-minded mother was manning the first aid post at Rose Bay in May 1942 when Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour.

After training, Diana served as vice-consul in the Australian diplomatic missions in New York and San Francisco, before marrying American colonel and wartime journalist David Page, who had been chief of publicity and psychological warfare for the US Army under General Omar Bradley; he was later the deputy chief administrator of the US Veterans Administration.

Diana and her husband raised five children, and after blindness forced him to retire, in 1966 the family moved to Australia.

They settled in Canberra because its dry climate suited Diana, an asthmatic, and because it was the only place they could register their left-hand-drive touring vehicle.

In 1972, she undertook a graduate diploma of librarianship and was invited to tutor and then lecture in children’s literature at Canberra University. Later she served as a judge for Children’s Book of the Year.

She was also a member of the Royal Canberra Golf Club and worked as a volunteer for the Canberra Historical Society.

In 2006, Diana was an invited speaker at the 40th anniversary of the ‘‘lifting of the marriage bar’’, which allowed later generations of capable women to combine marriage with continued employment in the Australian Public Service. Diana is survived by her children, Carolyn, David, Susan, Mary and Courtney, and 12 grandchildren.

Original publication

  • Age (Melbourne), 30 July 2009

Additional Resources

Citation details

Sue Page, 'Page, Diana (1922–2009)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/page-diana-1595/text1681, accessed 23 October 2019.

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