Colleen McCullough, author of "The Thorn Birds," is likely Australia's best-known writer. But upon her death, major daily The Australian's obituary led with comments about her weight, bolstering the country's reputation for sexism.
"Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth," The Australian said in the lead of its obituary. The writer couldn't resist piling it on in the third paragraph: "Colleen was the supreme egotist," because she often spoke with the press.
Accomplished by anyone's standards, McCullough was a neurophysiological researcher at Yale University when she embarked on her writing career that spanned more than 20 novels. Indeed, she started writing to earn money on the side after discovering her male colleagues at Yale were receiving higher pay than she did.
In 1977, her second novel, "The Thorn Birds," was published. The paperback rights sold for what was at the time a record $1.9 million. More than 30 million copies have been sold world-wide, and it remains frequently assigned reading at U.S. schools.
She died this week at the age of 77.
Symbol of rising sexism?
The Australian's obituary follows rising criticism of sexism in Australia.