Childhood & Early Life
Mem Fox was born on 5th March, 1946, to Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and Nancy, in Melbourne, Australia, and was baptised Merrion Frances Partridge. When she was six months old, her family shifted to Africa. She has two younger sisters named Jan Delacourt and Alison Partridge.
Her parents were missionaries and father was employed at the ‘Hope Fountain Mission’ located in Zimbabwe (formerly known as Rhodesia). Thus, she spent her early years in the mission.
She received early education in a school where she was the only white child and had many friends who were African. However, the school authorities asked her parents to move her to a white school as it was unlawful for a white student to be among black students.
When she was six years old, she joined a school with only white students but she felt that she did not fit there. She did not have friends there and she was teased for her African-English accent.
She took up public speaking when she was in high school at the advice of her mother. This has probably helped her a lot in her later life.
In and around 1965, she travelled to London and enrolled at a drama school where she took classes for three years. She worked on her accent, learnt to act and even sang songs. During this time she developed an interest in colouring her hair and she continued it as a habit.
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In the drama school, she met Malcom Fox whom she later married. In 1969, the couple shifted to Rwanda where Malcom worked as a volunteer and Mem was engaged as teacher of English.
In 1970, the couple moved to Adelaide, South Australia, where her grandfather Wilfrid Partridge lived. There she joined the ‘Flinders University’ where she specialized in children’s literature.
At the university, she worked on an assignment which became the basis of her first book ‘Possum Magic’. This book was published in 1983, and ever since then, she has penned numerous books including children books and a few non-fictions.
During 1980s she authored books such 'Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge', 'A Cat called Kite', 'Zoo-Looking', 'Arabella, the Smallest Girl in the World', 'Hattie and the Fox', 'Just Like That', 'Sail Away: The Ballad of Skip and Nell'.
During the same period, she also wrote 'The Straight Line Wonder', 'A Bedtime Story', 'Goodnight Sleep Tight', 'Guess What?', 'Koala Lou', 'With Love at Christmas', 'Night Noises', 'Feathers and Fools', 'Shoes from Grandpa', 'Sophie'.
She also penned three non-fictions during 1980s, ‘Thereby Hangs a Tale’ and ‘How to Teach Drama to Infants Without Really Crying’ (which was released in the USA as ‘Teaching Drama to Young Children’).
Her non-fictional works during 1990s are ‘English essentials: the wouldn’t-be-without-it guide to writing well’ and ‘Radical reflections: passionate opinions on teaching, learning, and living’.
In the decade from 1990-99, she wrote many children books like ‘Time for Bed’, ‘Tough Boris’, ‘Wombat Divine’, ‘Boo to a Goose’, ‘Whoever You Are’, ‘Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge’ and ‘Sleepy Bears’.
In 1990, she inked her autobiography entitled ‘Mem’s the Word’ which was released in the USA titled ‘Dear Mem Fox’, two years after it was published in Australia.
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From 2000-10, she had published plentiful of children books such as ‘Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild!’, ‘The Magic Hat’, ‘Where Is The Green Sheep?’, ‘Hunwick’s Egg’, ‘A Particular Cow’, ‘Where the Giant Sleeps’, ‘Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes’, ‘Hello, Baby’, ‘A Giraffe in the Bath’, ‘Let's Count Goats’.
Her most recent works include ‘The Little Dragon’ and ‘Two Little Monkeys’ and ‘Reading Magic’.
Awards & Achievements
In 1984, she was a recipient of ‘New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards’ for her book ‘Possum Magic’.
She was honoured with the ‘Dromkeen Medal’ in the year 1990, for her distinguished services to children’s literature. The following year, she was awarded with the ‘Advance Australian Award’.
In 1993, she was awarded with a medal at the ‘Australia Day Honours’ awards and the following year, she received the ‘Flinders University Chancellor’s Medal’.
In 2001, she was awarded with the ‘Convocation Medal’ by the ‘Flinders University’, and the same year, she won the ‘SA Great Award’. The following year, the ‘Zonta International’ honoured her with the ‘Woman of Achievement’ award.
In 2003, she was a recipient of the ‘Prime Minister's Centenary Medal’. She was also honoured with the ‘Children’s Language and Literature Achievement Award’ by the ‘Speech Pathology Association’ of Australia.
Personal Life & Legacy
She got acquainted to Malcom Fox whom she met at the drama school in London, and they married in 1969. The couple are blessed with a daughter named Chloë Fox.
Chloë grew up to become a journalist, a teacher and finally a Member of Parliament for the state of Bright, South Australia.
In 1996, the ‘University of Wollongong’ honoured her with an honorary Doctorate of Letters. She also received honorary doctorates from the ‘University of Flinders’, South Australia and the ‘University of Technology’