Suzanne (originally Susannah) Evans was one of five children. She was born in 1893 in the gold mining town of Walhalla, Victoria to John and Alice Evans. Her mother died when she was only eight years old.

In 1914 the Evans family moved to Melbourne and the following year, after a courtship of only three weeks,  Suzanne married a young solider, Oscar Bennett, who was at a training camp. During the war Suzanne established  a career on the stage, and supplemented  her income  by working as a typist. When Bennett returned home in 1919 their relationship rapidly deteriorated, due to Bennett’s drinking, cruelty and adultery.  After a failed attempt by Suzanne to obtain a divorce in 1920 it was finally granted in 1922.

Suzanne Bennett


Suzanne Bennett, a theatrical artiste, aged 25, was granted a decree nisi from Oscar Bennett, a returned soldier. by the Chief Justice this morning.  Prior to her marriage, Mrs Bennett swore in an affidavit that she was a typiste. She knew h husband only three weeks before they married. During his absence at the war they wrote to each other in most affectionate terms. She bought furniture and furnished a room with his separation allowance, but later he sold the furniture, and when she remonstrated she was told togo to h…’!  She had to find work with an opera company as the respondent could not get a position. He used to drink heavily and was guilty of repeated acts of cruelty, He took up with a married woman….when questioned as to whether he had ever stayed with her he said, ‘Many a time.’  There was no appearance for the respondent.   (Ballarat Star, Feb 22 1922)

It was brave of Suzanne to continue her legal battle  as divorce was not socially acceptable in those days.

A few months after gaining her freedom the Herald newspaper held a beauty contest. Suzanne was one of five hundred hopefuls who sent in  a photograph.

The  winner was  newly married Mrs Edward Tyrrell, who as Miss Betty Montgomery had also been an actress, performing in  pantomimes in Australia and New Zealand. Suzanne made the ‘long list’ of thirty, but did not progress to the final six.

In  October she headed to San Fransico on board the SS Niagara, hoping her savings would last until she found work.

From the social magazine ‘Table Talk’ on October 19 1922.

Miss Suzanne Bennett, who has been studying under Mrs Hugh Ward, leaves Sydney  for America by the Niagara on October 26. She will spend a few months in New York with relations, then go on to London and the Continent to complete her studies, Those who have heard Miss Bennett sing deem she has a brilliant future.

Accompanying her was another singer and actress, Nellie Leach.

The caption of the following photo reads. ‘Seek news of the feminine world. Miss Nellie Leach and Mrs Suzanne Bennett, Australian newspaper women, arrive in San Francisco on world tour to find out what women are thinking about.  Newspaper reporters?? 😎 The pair were far more interested in furthering their stage careers than interviewing other women. but it made good copy.


How does a young Australian break into the competitive world of the theatre in America? Well, in Suzanne’s case it seems to have involved a bit of self-promotion, fueled by the press.

Under the headline, SUZANNE ON HER TRAVELS, The  Melbourne Herald pointed out that Mrs Bennett had only been among the final thirty in their much vaunted beauty contest, but in San Fransisco she was receiving publicity as The Beauty Queen of Australia. The Herald continued;

One publication published  a photo of her under the caption ‘Wears Beauty Crown’ and  wrote, ‘Miss (sic)  Suzanne Bennett of Australia. proclaimed the most beautiful girl in the Antipodes. who is here on her way to join a  New York theatrical company. She recently won a beauty contest in which over 500 girls were entered’. The San Francisco ‘Bulletin’ of the next day. gives her double column picture on the front page. and says she was ‘voted beauty queen of Melbourne’.

And now came a distinct tone of disapproval;

Well, Australia still has Mrs Tyrrell, the authentic ‘Queen of the Quest’. And San Francisco has girls quite as beautiful as Miss Bennett….‘   (Herald, Jan 5 1923)

Twelve months  later  The Prahran Telegraph reported that  Suzanne Bennett, who had dreamed of becoming a star in America,  had done just that.  She had performed in San Francisco, Chicago and ultimately in New York, and would go to become an established Broadway performer.

Suzanne Bennett's Broadway performances.

Source – Wikipedia

In June 1928 Suzanne attended a New York reception in honour of a fellow Australian, the polar explorer and recently knighted Sir  Hubert George Wilkins. The meeting led to romance.


The pair were married in 1929 and their delayed honeymoon in 1930 was appropriately romantic .



Honeymoon flight for Suzanne and Sir Hubert Wilkins,

Graf Zeppelin. (Source – Wikipedia) 

Lady Suzanne, through your spirit and resilience you found success and personal happiness. 💛 Good for you I say.

NOTE – My interest in Suzanne began due to my lovely cousin Rodney Charles. Rodney is a chef in Antarctica based at Casey Station, but he was  at Wilkins Runway (65km from Casey)  this year while it was being prepared for summer flights. The runway  was named in honour of Wilkins, a pioneer Antarctic aviator and explorer. My original intention was to write a piece about Sir Hubert, but as is my wont….I was side-tracked!




1 Comment
  1. Excellent story

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