Rosemary Dobson was born in June of 1920 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. She was the second of two daughters, and was raised by her mother after her father, Arthur, died when Dobson was only five years old. Marjorie, Dobson’s mother, worked as a housemistress at the famous Frensham School, thereby gaining entrance for her daughter. The founder of the school took the family under his wing, and made sure they were economically stable.
Education and Early Career
It was at Frensham School that Dobson was first exposed to the possibility of writing and editing as a profession. While enrolled at the school she produced her first collection of poems and even designed a linoleum print as the cover art. She went on to bind the books herself, inspired and helped by the librarian of the school, Joan Phipson. Her experience at Frensham was a positive one and she chose to stay on as an apprentice teacher of art and art history after she graduated.
It was at the age of 21 that Dobson went on to attend the University of Sydney. She was not on degree track but was able to study with a number of artists, and work as an editor and reader for the publisher Angus and Robertson. She was also contributing to different literary journals during this time period as well as working on her first professional collection of poetry. This collection, In a Convex Mirror, was published in 1944 with a local bookseller.
After her previous experience with the publishing company, Dobson was taken on as a full-time employee at Angus and Robertson, where she would maintain a long career. She also published her second collection, The Ship of Ice: with other poems. It was received quite well and attracted a good amount of attention. The title poem of this collection won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Literary Competition in 1948.
Dobson was married three years later to fellow editor, Alex Bolton, and the couple had three children together in the following ten years. They lived in London throughout the late ‘60s and then moved to Canberra in 1971 where their circle expanded, and Dobson’s husband set up the Publications area of the National Library of Australia. He would go on to set up the Brindabella Press.
Throughout the ‘70s, Dobson continued to publish and win awards, such as the FAW Christopher Brennan award and the Grace Level Poetry Prize. She has be recognized as one of the most important Australian poets and received the Order of Australia in 1987 as well as an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Sydney. She died in June of 2012 at the age of 92.