ROBERTSON, CONNIE (1895–1964)
Connie Robertson was a pioneering journalist and editor who played a major role in establishing women’s sections in Australian metropolitan newspapers.
Her career came too early for her to work across all forms of press journalism, and much of her working life was confined to what was known as the ‘women writers’ room’, culminating in her role as social editress of the Sydney Morning Herald. The title represented the restrictive nature of the position, yet Robertson successfully steered the pages she edited beyond traditional women’s subjects of the time, and into the spheres of social issues, literature and the arts. She trained two generations of female reporters, many of whom called her ‘Teach’. Robertson was confident in her taste in fashion and she disregarded the conventions of the day.
Born in Sydney, she was the first of six children of A.G. Stephens, the literary editor of the Bulletin. Robertson was named Connie Sweetheart, but used Constance as her first name in her newspaper by-line. She worked for her father from the age of 13, assisting him in the publication of his own literary magazine, the Bookfellow, from 1907.
After the publication closed, Robertson joined Sun Newspapers Ltd, where she worked as a proofreader, then as social editress of the Sunday Sun, editor of the Sun’s women’s pages, editor of the Sunday Sun’s women’s supplement and editor of two magazines, Woman’s Budget and Woman.
Robertson applied successfully for the position of social editress of the Sydney Morning Herald in 1936, and remained in the job until early 1962.
With a mixture of shrewdness, charm and meticulous attention to detail, Robertson ruled her staff with steely determination. Her pages were a mirror of Sydney society at the time. ‘She loved gossip but it had to be high-grade gossip’, remarked a colleague, H.G. Kippax.
Robertson’s own writing assignments included a visit to Hollywood to report on the film industry, and coverage of fashion shows in London and Paris. In 1942, she became an accredited war correspondent, touring women’s Army and Air Force bases in Australia; in 1947, she wrote a series of articles from Britain on post-war rationing; and in 1954, she covered Queen Elizabeth II’s first tour to Australia.
She lived her life according to the proverb: ‘Work makes life sweet’. Appointed OBE in 1955, Robertson died two years after her retirement, and just one day after the death of her husband.
REF: V. Lawson, Connie Sweetheart (1990).