Elisabeth Murdoch (philanthropist)
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, opening a drug rehabilitation centre in Melbourne, May 2005
Born Elisabeth Joy Greene
8 February 1909
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Nationality Australian Occupation Philanthropist Spouse Keith Murdoch (m. 1928-1952) Children Helen Handbury (deceased)
Parents Rupert Greene
Marie Grace De Lancey Forth
Relatives Elisabeth Murdoch (granddaughter)
Lachlan Murdoch (grandson)
James Murdoch (grandson)
Wendi Deng (daughter-in-law)
Matthew Freud (grandson-in-law)
Dame Elisabeth Joy Murdoch AC, DBE (born 8 February 1909) is an Australian philanthropist. She is the widow of Australian newspaper publisher Sir Keith Murdoch, and the mother of international media proprietor Rupert Murdoch. When Keith Murdoch was knighted, in 1933, she was styled Lady Murdoch. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1963 and styled as Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.
Murdoch was born as Elisabeth Joy Greene in Melbourne, the third daughter of Marie Grace De Lancey (née Forth) and Rupert Greene. Her grandfather, William Henry Greene, was a Scottish railway engineer who emigrated to Australia and married Fanny, the fourth of the 10 daughters of George Govett. Her mother's ancestors were Scottish and English; Murdoch's great-grandfather was a lieutenant governor in the West Indies. Elisabeth was educated at St Catherine's School in Toorak, and at Clyde School in Woodend. She married Keith Murdoch, 23 years her senior, in 1928 and inherited the bulk of his fortune when he died in 1952.
Apart from Rupert, her children are Janet Calvert-Jones, Anne Kantor and Helen Handbury (1929-2004). At the time of a 2003 interview she had 73 descendants. Her namesake granddaughter, Elisabeth Murdoch, is prominent in the British business world and is married to Matthew Freud, having previously been married to Elkin Pianim, the son of Ghanaian financier Kwame Pianim.
Apart from raising her children, Murdoch has devoted her life to philanthropy. Before her marriage she worked as a volunteer for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She joined the management committee of the Royal Children's Hospital in 1933, serving as its president from 1954 to 1965.
A 2003 article in the Melbourne newspaper The Age (see link below) said: "Few can rival Dame Elisabeth's enormous contribution. Her interests are so many they need to be alphabetically catalogued: academia, the arts, children, flora and fauna, heritage, medical research, social welfare. Many of Melbourne and Australia's most cherished institutions, from the Royal Children's Hospital to the Australian Ballet and the Botanic Gardens, have benefited from her involvement. But Dame Elisabeth also devoted herself to less popular causes: prisoners, children in care, those battling mental illness and substance abuse."
Murdoch is known to have disapproved of the behaviour of some of his British tabloid newspapers and, as a result, Rupert is reputed to have reined in some of their sexual content.
Murdoch is a Life Governor of the Royal Women's Hospital. She is the patron of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and of the Australian American Association (Victoria), founded by her husband. She is a patron and founding member of disability organisation EW Tipping Foundation and a founding member of the Deafness Foundation of Victoria. The first woman on the council of trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, Dame Elisabeth was a founding member of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. She is a member of the Patrons Council of the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria.
The garden at Murdoch's property, "Cruden Farm" at Langwarrin near Frankston (south-east of Melbourne), is one of Australia's finest examples of landscape gardening and is regularly open to the public. It was originally designed by Edna Walling. Murdoch is a popular figure in the area, where she has donated to many local charities and is known locally as "the Dame".
Murdoch is a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She also holds an award from the French government for funding an exhibition of works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin in Melbourne in 2002. She is an honorary fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects and helped to establish the Elisabeth Murdoch Chair of Landscape Architecture and the Australian Garden History Society.
In 1968, Murdoch was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws by the University of Melbourne in acknowledgement of her contributions to research, the arts and philanthropy. Trinity College, Melbourne installed her as a Fellow in 2000. Following extensive donations to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, a Tasmanian species of Boronia (B. elisabethiae) was named after her. In 2004 a high school, Langwarrin Secondary College, was renamed Elisabeth Murdoch College to honour her work in the local community and, in 2010, Geelong Grammar School completed a new girls' boarding house named in her honour.
In January 2007, aged 97 years and 11 months, she surpassed Dame Alice Chisholm as Australia's longest-lived dame. As of 2011, at age 102, she remains in good health, maintaining a busy schedule of committee meetings and charity functions. This high level of charity work earned her the Victorian of the Year award in 2005 at the age of 96.
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