Dame Nellie was born Helen Porter Mitchell. She was affectionately known as ‘Nellie’ as a child, then took the stage name ‘Melba’ as a nod to her hometown, Melbourne, when she entered the world of opera.
Nellie Melba was the first Australian to appear on the cover of Time magazine when she featured in the April 18, 1927 edition.
In 1915 Melba helped establish and finance a ‘mission’ kindergarten for the poor children of Richmond, Melbourne, even assisting in the running of the programs. The Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten still exists today.
Melba’s death in 1931 was front page news around the world. Her funeral was attended by royal representations, politicians, religious leaders and high-ranking members of society. Thousands of mourners lined the streets from Collins St to Lilydale Cemetery to bid her a final farewell.
Her face has been on the front of Australian $100 note since 1996, when the paper note was discontinued and reissued on polymer. Sir John Monash is on the back of the note.
Melba worked tirelessly for the war effort, raising a staggering £100,000. She was made a Dame Commander of the British British Empire in 1918 for her extraordinary fundraising efforts.