JARRETT, PATRICIA IRENE HERSCHELL (1911-1990), journalist, was born on 9 March
1911 at Albert Park, Melbourne, elder daughter of Victorian-born parents Cyril
Chalmers Jarrett, station manager, and his wife Jessie Mabel, née Herschell.
Although her Christian names were registered as Irene Herschell, she was always
known as Patricia. Her family lived with Cyril’s parents on their property near
Kyneton, where the fair-haired, blue-eyed Pat had an idyllic early childhood. In
1917 she moved with her mother and sister to Melbourne. Educated at Middle Park
State and Elwood Central schools, she excelled at sport. The Olympic champion
(Sir) Frank Beaurepaire encouraged her as a swimmer. In 1927 she began work in
Herschell’s Film Laboratories, owned by an uncle, while also freelancing for the
Sporting Globe, in which she soon had her own column. At the same time she
successfully competed in championship swimming and athletics.
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Australian Dictionary of Biography
In 1958, Pat Jarrett celebrated 25 years of continuous service with the Herald and Weekly Times. She was the only woman alongside seventeen men on the staff to have served so long.
As a child, Pat Jarrett had a love for sport and a love for country life. She left school at 16 and worked at her uncle's film laboratory, but an interest in writing about championship swimming led to a job on the Herald as a sports journalist. Jarrett took on a cadetship under Keith Murdoch and Sidney Deemer. In 1940, she took something of a sabbatical from journalism and took up a position as press agent for Australian ambassador Richard Casey in Washington. Casey's post there came to an end with the entry of the United States into the Second World War. Jarrett returned to Australia to work as a war correspondent for the Herald and covered, among other things, the activities of the WAAF. In December 1942, she recounted the activities of 35 women - from Russia, England, Scotland, Ireland, India, South Africa and New Zealand - who spent four days bivouacking in the mountains, learning how to make an 'Aussie Bunk' out of saplings and chaff bags, and training to deal with the possible evacuation of civilians. 'In civilian life', Jarrett noted, 'the occupations of these trainees ranged from architects to botanists, so that when the daily manoeuvres included the building of a model camp site to accommodate 100 people, with children, in summer, some varying and interesting ideas resulted'.
Jarrett was well connected, both in Australia and abroad. According to her biographer, Audrey Tate, 'she particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to meet the famous, though she always remained a trifle in awe of them'. She was friendly with Sir Hubert and Lady Opperman, and she corresponded regularly with Katharine Hepburn. In 1944 she again joined the Casey family, this time in Calcutta as secretary to Lady Maie Casey following Sir Richard's appointment as Governor of Bengal. Her duties included arranging a meeting between Ghandi and Casey, and travelling to the Front to interview Generals Slim and Merserbe on the recapture of Mandalay. Casey was decommissioned at the end of the War, and Jarrett spent the three years from 1945 working as a journalist in New York.
In 1948, Jarrett was employed to edit the women's pages at the Sun News-Pictorial. She retained her post until December 1973. Rejecting the title of 'Social Editoress', she called herself instead the Leader of the Women's Staff, and refused to be pushed into frivolous writing on fashion and social events. With the aim of informing and entertaining her women readers, she added commentary on broader social issues to the regular pieces on clothing, cooking and sewing. Though she did not call herself a feminist, Jarrett published stories on equal pay for women, higher education for girls, and the possibility of seeking a fulfilling career in addition to marriage.
Jarrett became famous for her lively and provocative 'Fair Comment' column, in which she tackled all manner of questions. On 5 June 1965 she was discussing the need for spontaneous affection between husband and wife to avoid divorce, citing marriage guidance expert Dr Dick Glover. Three weeks later she was giving a voice to underpaid Victorian teachers. They, not their pupils, 'appear to be the ones who got the cane this week - and women teachers in particular'. The recent pay rise offered by the Teachers' Tribunal was minimal, said Jarrett: 'I reckon that while Australia's economic wizards keep telling us that ours is now such an affluent society, teachers (and any other group of salaried workers for that matter) can't be blamed for expecting a bit of it to rub off onto them, and for feeling let down when it doesn't'. In 1967, Jarrett was able to air her thoughts and opinions on talkback radio as co-host of 3DB's 'Talk It Over'.
In the early 1970s, Pat elected to retire but was persuaded to stay on part-time as editorial adviser on women's affairs to the Herald and the Sun. She continued to act as a loyal friend and helper to the Caseys, right through to the death of Maie Casey in 1983. By 1985 she was exhausted, suffering from a long bout of influenza as well as osteoporosis, diverticulitis and psoriasis. She retired permanently in December that year, after fifty-two years with the Herald and Weekly Times. Pat Jarrett died in 1990, aged 79.
c. 1930 - 1985
Career in journalism active
03 June 1972
MBE for services to journalism
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Australian Women's Register