AustLit logo
Jennifer Rankin Jennifer Rankin i(A27263 works by) (birth name: Jennifer Haynes) (a.k.a. Jennifer J. Rankin)
Born: Established: 28 Nov 1941 Chatswood, Chatswood - Gordon - Castlecrag area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales, ; Died: Ceased: 8 Dec 1979 Melbourne, Victoria,
Gender: Female
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


Jennifer Rankin, the daughter of Norman and Mary Haynes, was 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 to1977, 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. She died from cancer in 1979, leaving much unpublished poetry.

(Source: Adapted from 'Introduction by Judith Rodriguez' (xi-xxxi) in Jennifer Rankin Collected Poems ed. Judith Rodriguez (1990))

Most Referenced Works

Known archival holdings

The papers document Rankin's short writing period from 1969 to her death in 1979, including her poetry, plays, short stories and screenplay, together with several unpublished works. University of New South Wales Australian Defence Force Academy Australian Defence Force Academy Library (ACT)
Albinski 187
Last amended 8 Dec 2011 12:14:58
Influence on:
Magpie Tribute Debra Robson , 1998 single work poetry
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: