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Betty Cuthbert
, 1955 (printed 2003)

by Ern McQuillan

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 40.5 x 30.5 cm)

Betty Cuthbert AM MBE (1938-2017), sprinter, was Australia’s leading gold-medal winning track and field athlete. In 1956 she set a women’s world record for the 200 metres at Moore Park, beating the record set by her compatriot Marjorie Jackson at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Cuthbert had tickets to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games as a spectator, but she attended as a competitor, earning the nickname the ‘Golden Girl’ from the Melbourne Argus when she won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay. The 1958 Commonwealth Games, the 1960 Olympics and the 1962 Commonwealth Games went badly for her, but at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 she won the 400m, making her only the second woman to have won four different track races. In 1969 she developed multiple sclerosis, and was a vigorous fundraiser for research into the disease. In 1998, Cuthbert was named a Living National Treasure; the Athletic Stadium at Homebush is named in her honour.

Ern McQuillan (b. 1926) completed a photography cadetship at the Daily Mirror in the 1940s and after World War II worked for newspapers and magazines such as the Women’s Weekly, the Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph and the Bulletin. This photograph is one of several taken durion a session at Cuthbert’s family home in Ermington, also the location of a plant nursery run by her father. McQuillan recalled that Cuthbert was a ‘most cooperative’ subject, who was happy to don her running gear for some action shots having already been photographed ‘watering the plants and doing bits and pieces’ for her father.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2003
Accession number: 2003.111