Born: Established: 22 Jul 1903 Kaniva ; Died: 12 Feb 1996 Sydney
Betty Roland left school at sixteen to pursue a career in journalism, working for Table Talk and Sun News-Pictorial. Roland married Ellis Harvey Davies in 1923, but ten years later she eloped with Guido Baracchi, a prominent member of the Australian Communist Party, and lived in Russia for several years.
Roland saw her first play, The Touch of Silk, produced by the Melbourne Repertory Theatre in 1928. The play was performed by several repertory companies and was published by Melbourne University Press in 1942. It was revised in 1955 and published by Currency Press in 1988, demonstrating its continuing appeal.
After returning from Russia in 1935, she wrote a number of political plays that were often performed as street theatre. In 1939, disillusioned with the Communist Party and separated from Baracchi, she began writing for radio. One of her serials, A Woman Scorned (broadcast in the 1950s), was the inspiration for the television series Return to Eden (1985). She also has the distinction of scripting Australia's first talking feature film, The Spur of the Moment (1931).
During the 1940s, she lived for some time at an artistic community at Montsalvat, Victoria, before working as a freelance writer in London for most of the 1950s. After returning to Australia in 1961, she wrote a number of highly regarded children's novels. She was a founding member of the Australian Society of Authors in 1963. In 1972, she was invited back to Montsalvat to write its history, published in 1984 as The Eye of the Beholder.
Roland also wrote a number of novels during the 1970s, but she is most-admired for the three volumes of autobiography that begin with Caviar for Breakfast (1979). She published the third volume, The Devious Being, in 1990. The year before she died, Roland saw one of her early plays, 'Feet of Clay' (1928), published in the selected work, Playing the Past: Three Plays by Australian Women (1995).