Dorothy Hewett

“Dorothy Coade Hewett was born on 21 May 1923 on a farm near the Western Australian wheat belt town of Wickepin, the elder daughter of Arthur Thomas (Tom) and Doris Irene (René, née Coade) Hewett. She was educated by correspondence as a child, and then at Perth College and the University of Western Australia (UWA), where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1963. Hewett began writing poetry as a child. Her first published poem was ‘Dreaming’, which appeared in an anthology of children’s work in 1938.” …

“Hewett’s career as a writer spanned fiction, poetry, plays and articles for which she received numerous awards and fellowships throughout her life. Her contribution to Australian literature was recognised with an Order of Australia medal (AM) in 1986. Hewett held the position of writer-in- residence at least nine times at Australian universities and once overseas. Her publishing record is vast and includes three novels, a first volume of memoirs, Wild card (the second volume was in process at the time of her death), fifteen plays, anthologies of poetry, radio and screen plays, short stories, musicals, librettos and articles for Australian and overseas journals. In addition, Hewett and her works have been the subject of much analysis and review by other authors.

It is difficult to separate Hewett’s writing from her persona. Her early bohemian lifestyle and political and social activism earned her a reputation as an unrepentant rebel. Students, political colleagues from both sides of politics, theatre people and literati alike were drawn to her outgoing personality and vast intellect. Hewett’s flamboyant image and creative output never waned.

Dorothy Hewett died in Springwood, New South Wales, on 25 August 2002, survived by husband Merv Lilley and five of her children”(Papers of Dorothy Hewett, MS 6184, National Library of Australia).

Dorothy Hewett australian songwriter

Listen to Songs By Dorothy Hewett

Atomic Lullaby by Dorothy Hewett

The song selected for the Songbook, Atomic Lullaby, was initially published in Overland in 1958 . John McLaren, in his 1996 book Writing in Hope and Fear: Literature as Politics in Postwar Australia (Cambridge University Press), positions this work as reflecting one of the two abiding themes in Dorthy Hewett’s output, love and politics. The editorial rationale for the inclusion of this song in a collection documenting the preoccupations of 1970s and 1980s Australian feminism is to identify Dorothy Hewett as a significant figure in the unbroken line of Australian feminism from the late nineteenth century suffragists to the present day (see Getting Equal: The history of Australian feminism (Marilyn Lake, Allen & Unwin. 1999). The poem was set to music by Mike Leyden and performed by Gary Shearston as part of the radical folk revival of the mid 1960s (Warren Fahey 2014).

 The following is Gary Shearston’s performance from Songs of Our Time (1964)


Atomic Lullaby

Song Lyrics

Atomic Lullaby. Lyrics: Dorothy Hewett. Melody: Mike Leyden. Performed by Gary Shearston

Hush my baby, do not cry, a mushroom cloud is in the sky;
Now I lay you down to die; 
Lulla, lulla, lullaby. 
Hush, my baby, do not cry, a mother’s tears are never dry. 

Oh, who will teach your feet to run and who will guide your lisping tongue;
And who will warm you in the sun? 
Now that my body’s work is done. 
Hush, my baby do not cry, a mother’s tears are never dry.

I cannot sleep, I cannot rest, my babe is gasping at my breast;
I walk from east, west, north and south
With a cry for peace in a burning mouth.
Hush, my baby do not cry, a mother’s tears are never dry.

I did not ache that you might die, the world will hear my bloody cry
So sleep in peace and lullaby; 
Lulla, lulla, lullaby. 
Hush, my baby do not cry, a mother’s tears are never dry.