Sport for Women

Marie Bjelke-Petersen

Type: Player/Athlete
Sports: Netball
Location: Australia

Marie Bjelke-Petersen is best known as a writer, but as a young woman she enjoyed playing sport and was, it has been argued, instrumental in introducing the sport of netball to Tasmania.

She migrated with her family to Hobart, Tasmania in 1891, where her brother, Hans Christian, established the Bjelke-Peterson Physical Culture school in 1892. Marie joined as instructor in charge of the women's section; she also taught the subject in schools. It was during that time, it is suggested, that the Bjelke-Petersens learned about a new game called basketball that was being played in the United States. Marie introduced drills designed for the game in to the Physical Culture program that she taught in the schools.

Unfortunately, injuries prevented her from continuing with her teaching career much past 1910. At this point, she picked up her career as a writer. She published her first novel The Captive Singer, in 1917 to much aclaim; it sold 100,000 copies in English and 40,000 in Danish. In 1935 she won the King's Jubilee medal for services to literature.

In recent years, Bjelke-Petersen has become a gay and lesbian icon. She lived in an intimate relationship with Silvia Mills, who she met in 1898, and who, it is argued, The Captive Singer was about, for thirty years.