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illustrator and cartoonist, was born at Creswick, Victoria, on 20 March 1885, the seventh child and third daughter of Dr Robert Charles Lindsay and Jane Elizabeth, née Williams. Encouraged by her elder sister Mary, who had her own thwarted ambitions, Ruby left home in the early years of the century, ostensibly to keep house for her eldest brother Percy but in reality to study art at the National Gallery School, Melbourne. Ruby was easily drawn into the milieu of freelance illustration. Her steady (but meagre) source of income for those years was as illustrator for the Hawklet ; Ruby Lindsay was the fourth member of her family to be staff artist for that disreputable police gazette. Because she wished to follow her own path and not ride on the reputation of her brothers, she signed her work 'Ruby Lind’.

In November 1903 her brother Lionel married Jean Dyson, whose three brothers, Ted, Will and Ambrose , managed to flourish in the risky world of freelance writing and illustration and she became close to the family. In 1905 she designed the cover for The Waddy , a publication that ran for only one issue. It also included a full-page drawing by Will Dyson. The next year she illustrated William Moore’s Studio Sketches . From 1906 to 1908 she joined the Dysons in drawing illustrations and cartoons for the Adelaide based magazine, The Gadfly (1906-08), edited by C.J. Dennis and A.E. Martin. Her cover illustration of the 27 March 1907 (2/66) which showed a young woman crossing the street being ogled by a line of men, could have been drawn from her own experience as she was acutely embarrassed at the attention her beauty received. Her illustrations were also published in the Sydney based Bulletin and Lone Hand . She became a regular illustrator for Steele Rudd’s Magazine and with Ruth Simpson and Ashton Murphy, she illustrated Back at Our Selection (1906), providing 11 drawings.

At the 1907 Women’s Work Exhibition in Melbourne, Ruby Lind’s Book Lovers’ Library poster was awarded a first prize; she also won a silver medal and a special prize of five guineas for best Design exhibit. She designed the First Class Diploma certificate awarded at the exhibition (a group of allegorical women), Eirene Mort 's design being chosen for the Second Class Diploma. Ruby Lind’s cartoon on the exhibition for the Bulletin was unusual in being sympathetic; it was also the only cartoon on the exhibition identified as being by a woman artist. Her work was beginning to attract critical attention. William Moore noted in the Native Companion (2 December 1907): 'S he has turned out every variety of drawing, from book illustrations to designs for pantomimic costumes. As the designer of the prize diploma and the prize poster exhibited at the Women’s Exhibition, Ruby Lindsay must realise that she has already made a distinct advance .’ Moore later interviewed her for New Idea (6 December 1907, p.848) as a successful woman black and white artist who 'tried every form of black and white, from the poster to the book-plate’.

When Percy Lindsay married in 1906 Ruby could no longer keep up the pretence of being his housekeeper, a fiction that had amused her siblings as she was notoriously uninterested in the domestic arts. She was however determined to make her own path, and maintained an aggressive indifference to the attentions of those men who claimed they wished to further her career. In an undated letter to her brother Norman, written shortly before Percy’s wedding, Will Dyson wrote: ' She’s a silly little bugger in a lot of ways. She thinks she can take care of herself which I suppose she can but I am dam [sic] certain she doesn’t know enough to save herself from the nasty compromise of herself … She has had so many of these young pricks taking on themselves the airs of guardianship that she resents my attempts to direct her faltering footsteps—I who am a truly great man. ' He was perhaps not an impartial observer. On 30 September 1909, Will Dyson and Ruby Lindsay married at Creswick and shortly afterwards left for London, accompanied by Norman. The following year Norman was joined by his new partner, Rose Soady. When the Dysons declined to meet Rose, the relationship with Norman became decidedly strained.

In London Ruby Lind and Will Dyson collaborated on black-and-white illustrations and posters. Will concentrated on the figures while Ruby drew landscape backgrounds. Dyson also developed his career as a political cartoonist and caricaturist. Their daughter, Elizabeth (Betty), was born on 11 September 1911. Ruby continued to paint fans, illustrated children books such as Naughty Sophia (London 1912) and sent back drawings to Lone Hand and the Bulletin . Domesticity appears to have honed her feminist instincts as she began to draw political cartoons for Christabel Pankhurst’s The Suffragette as well as posters supporting socialist causes, a political tendency she shared with her husband. One of her most arresting images was a lithograph poster produced in about 1912 with the slogan: 'Mothers! 'Make the World Fit for Me: Vote Labour’ . The subject is a small naked girl with arms outstretched, presumably based on her daughter Betty.

During World War I she stayed in London with Betty while Will Dyson became Australia’s first official war artist. From family accounts it appears that she deprived herself in order to ensure that Betty’s health did not suffer with wartime rationing. In early 1919 she travelled to Ireland with her younger brother, Daryl, to renew contact with their Irish cousins. It was on this journey she caught a chill which proved to be the Spanish influenza. She died back at London, in Chelsea, on 12 March 1919.

Ruby Lindsay’s art was preserved through the combined efforts of her husband, sister Mary, and her brothers Lionel and Daryl. Dyson privately published Poems in Memory of a Wife and also edited The Drawings of Ruby Lind (1920) published by Cecil Palmer. Her siblings ensured that her original drawings entered public collections, especially that of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria. Daryl Lindsay, who had turned to art after he became Will Dyson’s batman in France, was especially active in ensuring that this sister was properly regarded in his memoir, The Leafy Tree (Melbourne 1965).

Writers:
Mendelssohn, Joanna
Joanna Mendelssohn
Date written:
1995
Last updated:
2014