Charmian Clift was born in the coastal town of Kiama, New South Wales, on 31 August 1923. After serving as a lieutenant in the Australian Army, she joined the staff of the Melbourne Argus newspaper, and in 1947 married fellow-journalist George Johnston. The next year, the couple’s collaborative novel High Valley won the Sydney Morning Herald prize.
Fleeing the political claustrophobia of Australia under the Menzies government, in 1952 Charmian and George headed to London. Two years later, they escaped even further, to the Greek islands, where over the next decade they raised three children and created a legend. During this period, Clift wrote the memoirs, Mermaid Singing and Peel Me A Lotus, and her two novels, Honour’s Mimic and Walk to the Paradise Gardens.
After the family returned to Australia in 1964, Charmian Clift began writing a weekly column that appeared in the Women’s Section of the Sydney Morning Herald. In these ‘sneaky little revolutions’, as Clift once called her essays, she supported the rights of women and migrants, called for social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, opposed conscription and the war in Vietnam acknowledged our role in Asia, fought censorship, called for an Australian film industry – and much more.
Although Charmian Clift died in 1969, her message of liberation was so far ahead of her time that her little revolutions continue to win new readers.