The main reasons for writing up this actress were the large numbers of postcards that show her picture, though born in England her career started in Australia and progressed later to England, and the paucity of information of biographical information that exists about her on the internet, other than a nasty divorce that took place in Melbourne. This postcard appeared on Ebay, and it is labeled ‘Mrs. Maesmore Morris (Figure 1).
The reverse shows a red 1d ‘Pictorial’ stamp of Tasmania and it was postmarked COLEBROOK/ JU 26/ 06/ TASMANIA and it has a reception postmark of CAMPANIA/ 27 JU/ 06/ TAS (Figure 2).
I have often found information in my personal copy of Richard Bonynge’s ‘A Collector’s Guide to Theatrical Postcards’. This book was a nostalgic buy on my part for we shared classrooms at Sydney Boys’ High School in the 1940s. In his Foreword to the 1993 edition Richard Bonynge states that he first began collecting theatrical postcards in 1950 when he had opportunity to purchase them at the Portobello Market in London and along the banks of the Seine in Paris. His book has been a great help in research, particularly for this card’s artist.
This is what Richard found in his research of an item labeled as ‘40b Mrs. Maesmore Morris’: “The grandly named Mrs Maesmore Morris was born Gertrude Wilmot in England. She went to Melbourne with her father, a doctor, and there married Mr. Morris in 1894 (incorrect, see later). Her stage career began with Charles Hawtey in Australia, playing several roles in The Sign of the Cross“.
“Arriving in London in 1899, she was subsequently engaged at the St James’, first as Julie Opp’s understudy in The Prisoner of Zenda. She then appeared in Rupert of Henzau with George Alexander, and starred with H.B. Irving in The Plot of His Story by Mrs Oscar Beringer. After playing at various theatres throughout England, she returned to dazzle the colonies. She appeared throughout Australia in her usual repertoire, then retired as a naval lieutenant’s wife circa 1907″.
Her postcard’s publisher was: C.B. & Co. Ltd., Australia: Graphic series. Photograph: Talma & Co., Melbourne and Sydney. Hand-coloured. Bonynge’s postcard is shown as Figure 3.
Mrs. Maesmore Morris’ divorce from her husband Maesmore Morris was big news in the Australian newspapers in August 1905, and it supplied information that was not available elsewhere. What follows is an abstract of a divorce that ran to 1½ columns. She petitioned for the divorce on the grounds of desertion by her husband who had returned to South Africa. He had been. She married him at Christ Church, South Yarra on July 14, 1892, and he was an accountant at that time. She had been born in London and she came to Melbourne with her father, Dr. Wilmot, and prior to her marriage she was supported by her parents. During her marriage they were partially supported by their respective parents, and her husband’s father John Morris, at death left a legacy to their only child, Colin Maesmore Morris, who was 11 years old at the time of the divorce.
Shortly after their son’s birth, her husband became addicted to alcohol and violence. In 1895 he lost his job and she told her husband that she wanted to go on the stage, and he agreed. She was interviewed by J.C. Williamson with whom she entered into a contract, and she commenced to play in 1897 at the Princess Theatre. For a week or so her husband was supportive, but soon he became physically abusive, and she returned to her father’s home, when she was locked out of their home. She afterwards toured the various Australian States. His Honour granted the decree nisi in August 1905, and gave her custody of their child. In 1899 she went to England, where she played until 1904. Her beauty was greatly appreciated in London, and the famous artist Arthur Streeton was painting her picture, with the aim of entering it at the Royal Academy.
In Australia she originally played supportive roles, and, as a stand in, but her ability and beauty was quickly recognised, and in England she found it relatively easy to become a star. In London, on 25 September, 1906 she married Lieutenant R.M. Sutter of the Royal Navy Reserve.