Guide to the Papers of Jennifer Rankin [MSS 348]

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Manuscript Name Papers of Jennifer Rankin
Manuscript Number MSS 348
Last Updated October 2021
Extent 1 m (7 boxes)
Location Special Collections, UNSW Canberra
Abstract The papers document Rankin's short writing period from 1969 to her death in 1979, including her poetry, plays, short stories and screenplays, together with several unpublished works.

Scope and Content

This collection includes correspondence, notebooks and manuscript and typescript drafts, newspaper clippings and childhood material. The correspondence reflects Rankin's friendships with distinguished literary figures both in Australia and overseas.

Date Range of Content



Special Collections staff has imposed the series arrangement of this collection to describe and preserve context and relationships.

Biographical Note

Jennifer Mary Rankin nèe Haynes was born in Chatswood, Sydney on the 28th November 1941, and brought up in Willoughby, NSW. She was the daughter of Norman and Mary Haynes, and one of four children. Her parents divorced after the Second World War. She was educated at Ravenswood Methodist School for Girls on Sydney's North Shore and in 1958 was Dux of the school and president of the Debating Society. Rankin majored in English and Psychology at the University of Sydney and gained an Arts degree. She lived with her mother on a Commonwealth Scholarship and participated in the Push, a loose group of inner city bohemians with a rebellious approach to life and opposed to the conservative values of the 1950s. She rejected an honours year to marry John Roberts, a medical student also involved with the Push, despite her mother's opposition. On 9 January 1965 her son Thomas was born in Canberra and in 1966 Rankin left her husband.

Rankin returned to Sydney and lived for a time with Frank Moorhouse (q.v.) and in 1969 married the painter David Rankin (q.v.) (with whom she had a daughter). In the meantime she had had an emotional collapse and for a short time in 1968 committed herself to Broughton Hall, a mental asylum. Employed as a teacher at North Sydney Boys' High School Rankin took an educational qualification externally from the University of New England. Her husband encouraged her to write poetry and by 1973 she was published in New Poetry. From 1976 to 1977, while living in England, she met Ted Hughes who encouraged her poetry writing. The American poet Galway Kinnell who Rankin met at the 1978 Adelaide Arts Festival was another who encouraged her, as did Margaret Atwood who undertook to seek publication for her poems in North America. Atwood's novel Bodily harm (1981) was dedicated to Jennifer Rankin. In October 1977 she was awarded a six month Writer's Fellowship from the Literature Board which led to a sojourn on Heron Island.

Rankin also wrote plays for radio and theatre. They include Bees (1974) and Razorback Mountain journey (1976). The undated plays for which there are no locations are 'Night spaces', 'Surfaces', 'I heard the door close', 'A steady face', 'Catwalk' and 'The darling's been done'. Rankin's poetry was widely published in numerous magazines in Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA. Her work has also appeared in collections of poetry. Much of her verse explores the complexities of family relationships, different forms of illness, and feelings of vulnerability.

Jennifer Rankin died in Melbourne from cancer on the 8 December 1979, and was buried in Sydney.

Her publications include:
Art workshop, joint author with David Rankin (1974)
Ritual shift (1976)
Earth hold (1978), illustrated by John Olsen
'The mud hut' (1979), published in Canada in Exile : a literary quarterly, vol. 6, no. 3-4, 1979
Jennifer Rankin : collected poems (1990), edited by Judith Rodriguez.

(Source: Adapted from 'Introduction by Judith Rodriguez' (xi-xxxi) in Jennifer Rankin Collected Poems ed. Judith Rodriguez (1990)) by AustLit : the resource for Australian literature, May 2007.

Administrative Information


The collection is available for research.

Restrictions on Use

No copying is permitted without the permission of the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Papers of Jennifer Rankin, Special Collections, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, MS 348, Series [Number], Folder [Number].


The collection was acquired by the Library from Rankin's second husband David Rankin in 1998.

Additional Information

Related Material

Further material relating to Jennifer Rankin is located in the papers of Robert Gray, at MS 16, Academy Library, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy.

Access Terms

Personal Names

Rankin, Jennifer, 1941-1979 -- Archives.

Topical Subjects

Poets, Australian -- 20th century -- Archives.

Australian poetry -- 20th century.

Australian literature -- 20th century -- Women authors.

Women poets, Australian -- 20th century -- Archives.




Series List and Descriptions


Series 1 Correspondence, 1967-1981

This small series comprises correspondence between Rankin and her friends, literary associates and publishers. It documents Rankin's friendships with distinguished literary figures both in Australia and overseas. The bulk of the correspondence consists of letters written to Rankin in 1979, and generally concerns her writing and publishing activities during this period.

Folder 1-2
Correspondence, 1970-1980

Including Margaret Atwood, Anne Brooksbank and Bob Ellis, Olwyn Hughes, Ted Hughes, Robyn Loquet, Frank Moorhouse, Chris Wallace-Crabbe and Galway Kinnell together with photocopies of his poetry

Folder 3
Correspondence with literary journals, theatres and radio stations, 1974-1981

Including The Age, American poetry review, John Patrick of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Aspect, Association of Community Theatres, Island Press, Radio 5MMM FM, The Tasmanian review and Tom Shapcott

Folder 4
Personal correspondence from family and friends, 1967-1980


Series 2 Notebooks and Diary, c. 1970s

This small series comprises one typescript diary entry and three notebooks containing notes on Buddhism; research and interview notes and writing ideas, notes and drafts; newspaper clippings and 'daily life' lists, arrangements and appointments.

Folder 1
Notebooks and diary entry, c. 1970s


Series 3 Poetry, c. 1970s

This series includes manuscript and typescript drafts of published and unpublished poems. Correspondence relating to these works is included in Series 1 and ideas and drafts are included in the notebooks in Series 2.

Folder 1
Manuscript, typescript and carbon typescript drafts with ms annotations of early and unpublished poems, 1973-1974

Folder 2
Typescript and carbon typescript drafts with ms annotations of poems published in Ritual shift ; review, 1973-1976

Folder 3
Manuscript, typescript, carbon typescript and photocopy typescript drafts with ms annotations of unpublished poems, 1976-1978 and poems published Jennifer Rankin : collected poems (1990)

Folder 4
Photocopy typescript drafts of 'Two poems' entitled 'From the mud hut' 31 p. and 'This is how it happens' 3 p.

Folder 5
Spiral bound photocopy typescript draft of 'From the mud hut' 31 p. and photocopy typescript draft with ms annotations of 'This is how it happens' 3 p.


Series 4 Dramas, 1973-1976

This series comprises notes and manuscript and typescript drafts relating to Rankin's plays for stage and radio and screenplays, including Bees, Razorback Mountain journey, 'The campaign', 'I heard the door close', 'Night spaces', 'Being myself' and 'The darling's been done' and an untitled play. Correspondence relating to this series is included in Series 1.

Bees was given a workshop production by the Melbourne Theatre Company on 11 May 1974; directed by Simon Hopkinson. The first full production of the play was at the Stables Theatre, Sydney, Thursday 15 July 1976. Bees was published in Theatre Australia, the first act in vol. 1, no. 1, August/September 1976, p. 24-29, and the second act in vol. 1, no. 2 September/October 1976, p. 27-30.

Folder 1
Annotated photocopy typescript draft of Bees 62 p., 1974-1976

Folder 2
Typescript draft of Bees 53 p., together with typescript notes from Simon Hopkinson, Director, Melbourne Theatre Company on the workshop performance, 29 April - 11 May, 1974

Folder 3
Photocopy typescript draft of Bees 53 p., together with typescript notes from Simon Hopkinson, Director, Melbourne Theatre Company on the workshop performance, 29 April - 11 May, 1974

Folder 4
Notes, manuscript, typescript, carbon typescript and photocopy typescript drafts of 'The campaign', 79 p.

Folder 5
Manuscript and annotated typescript drafts of 'Night spaces'

Folder 6
Manuscript (2) and annotated typescript drafts of 'Surfaces' together with Simon Hopkinson's reader's report

Folder 7
Manuscript, typescript and carbon typescript drafts of plays, 1974-1976

Including 'Being myself', manuscript draft with typescript notes; radio play entitled 'I heard the door close', annotated typescript drafts (2); 'The darling's been done', 15 p.; Razorback Mountain journey, carbon typescript, 9 p. with 4 typescript poems

Folder 8
Manuscript, carbon and photocopy typescript drafts of sketches

Including 'D.J. sketch', 'The silent cop' and 'Public Service'

Folder 9
Notes, manuscript, annotated typescript, carbon and photocopy typescript drafts of titled and untitled sketches

Including 'Telly and Shirl', 'Smirk', 'Brown rice', 'Blood and custard', 'The family', 'Motels mote', untitled 8 minute sketch, Playwright Studio 3 minute sketch and Trevor Thompson sketches

Folder 10
Manuscript drafts

Including one untitled radio play and one untitled stage play

Folder 11
Manuscript, annotated typescript and carbon typescript drafts, 1976

Including an untitled screenplay and a screenplay adapted from an idea by Gillian Burnett

Folder 12
Ideas and incomplete manuscript drafts of plays, c. 1970s


Series 5 Short Stories, 1969-c. 1974

This series comprises drafts of various short stories, including several for children including 'Alice is a friendly dog', 'Fruit in season', 'Mr Wilton and the dahlias', 'To heavy to stand', 'Two wallabies, one possum and a lord mayor', 'We have Aunt Olga' and 'Weak please, with a touch of lemon'.

Folder 1
Manuscript and annotated typescript drafts of short stories, 1969-c. 1973

Including 'Alice is a friendly dog', 'Fruit in season', 'Mr Wilton and the dahlias', 'Two wallabies, one possum and a lord mayor', and 'Weak please, with a touch of lemon'

Folder 2
Annotated typescript and carbon typescript drafts of 'Too heavy to stand' (4) and a reader's report from Gillian Burnett, 1973

Folder 3
Annotated typescript and carbon typescript drafts of ' We have Aunt Olga' (4), 1971-1974


Series 6 Other Prose, c. 1970-1979

This small series comprises miscellaneous notes and typescript drafts of two interviews by Rankin, one with Ted Hughes and one with Christina Stead.

Folder 1
Annotated typescript drafts of two interviews, 1970-1976

Including Christina Stead and Ted Hughes

Folder 2
Miscellaneous notes and unfinished articles on various subjects, 1979


Series 7 Biographical Material, 1976-1988

This small series of biographical material relating to Rankin includes interview transcripts by Judith Rodriguez for her book entitled Jennifer Rankin : collected poems.

Folder 1
Annotated typescript biography by Jennifer Rankin; transcript of interviews with David Rankin and Thomas Roberts-Rankin by Judith Rodriguez for Jennifer Rankin : collected poems, 1976-1988


Series 8 Miscellaneous Material, 1951-1988

This small series comprises personal items relating to Rankin includes school reports, artwork and poems by her son Thomas Roberts-Rankin and clippings.

Folder 1
Includes school literature book, school reports and artwork and poems by her son Thomas Roberts-Rankin, 1951-1974

Folder 2
Newspaper and magazine clippings; book launch invitation for Earth hold, 1960-1979

Folder 3
Computer typescript printout of 'The odyssey of David Rankin', by Kevin Childs; manuscript poem entitled 'Swagman' by Sabine Burmister


Series 9 Audio Visual, c. 1976-1979

This small series comprises two audio cassette tapes.

Box-folder 1-2
Two audio cassette tapes, c. 1976-1979

Tape of Jennifer Rankin which contains some comments on Ted Hughes and some recollections of her and her husband's friendship with Hughes entitled 'Comments on and recollections of Ted Hughes'
Two songs for Jenny Rankin side A 'Inward song' and side B 'Outward song', by Ava Jacobs


Series 10 Photographs, c. 1970s

This small series comprises photographs of Jennifer Rankin.

Box-folder 1
One colour photograph, 4 b/w photographs and 1 b/w proof sheet of Jennifer Rankin, c. 1970s