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Ethel Ellen (Judy) Tudor (1910–1998)

by Stuart Inder

She charted the movement towards independence of the South Pacific’s far-flung island territories.

Her parents called her Ethel Ellen Macdonald but people throughout the South Pacific knew her as Judy Tudor. For more than 35 years after World War 11, she was an influential editor and publisher who charted the movement towards independence for the region’s far-flung island territories.

Tudor, who has died at Erina on the central New South Wales coast at the age of 87, educated a generation on the significant political and social developments occurring in the Pacific. Born in Granity, New Zealand, she arrived in Canberra in 1927 and took a job as a statistics officer with the Commonwealth Public Service. There she met Len Tudor, whom she married in Melbourne in 1934. In 1936, they went gold prospecting in New Guinea, and she spent the next three years mostly in mountains of the Sepik district in arduous, even dangerous conditions.

“I never stopped congratulating myself,” she later recalled, “that I was where I was, seeing and doing strange things and not back in Melbourne being a suburban housewife.” She was in Rabaul working for an islands trading firm when the war forced her to return to Melbourne. The pair were divorced and in mid-1942, while awaiting a medical to join the AWAS, she received a job offer from the New Zealand-born Sydney publisher R. W. Robson to help bring out a new edition of the Pacific Islands Yearbook, needed urgently by the American Forces in Australia. The offer changed her life. After they produced the edition in record time, Robson put her to work on the Pacific Islands Monthly (PIM), a news magazine he had launched in 1930. They began a close personal and business relationship that ended only with Robson’s death in 1984 at the age of 99. An indefatigable worker to whom writing came easily, and with a good business head, Tudor was indispensable to the expansion of Pacific Publications Pty Ltd, especially following the company’s purchase of the Suva Fiji Times group in 1956. An executive director of the company and eventually a part-owner, she directed publishing activities in Sydney while Robson concentrated his energies on Fiji.

She continued to co-edit PIM, compile and edit new editions of the Year Book, various handbooks on the Pacific states, and a ground-breaking Pacific Who’s Who, and established a successful general book publishing division. Her staff admired the firm but even-handed management style of a boss who never for a moment believed that being a woman was a handicap in business, or in anything else she might choose to do.

Despite her executive responsibilities, she regarded herself foremost as a writer. She travelled frequently and widely and her regular reports and commentaries on islands affairs in PIM were penetrating and fearless.

She could employ her sharp wit and a sense of irony to devastating effect, particularly when aimed at the bureaucratic incompetencies of the colonial administrations of the time. Readers relished her entertaining travel articles and perceptive book reviews.

In earlier years she wrote successful fiction and in 1966 she published her autobiography, Many a Green Isle.

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Citation details

Stuart Inder, 'Tudor, Ethel Ellen (Judy) (1910–1998)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McDonald, Ethel Ellen

16 May, 1910
Granity, New Zealand


24 March, 1998 (aged 87)
Erina, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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