Margaret Malval emigrated to the United States of America from Melbourne, Australia in 1935. During World War II she volunteered for the American Women's Voluntary Services and sent packages to Australian soldiers through the Australian Comforts Fund, thereby entering into an exchange of correspondence with a number of Australian soldiers based in the Pacific and in Australia.
Margaret Louise Malval (nee Barnes), known to her friends as 'Peggy', was born on the 28th March 1912 in Melbourne, Australia. She was the only child of George F. Barnes and Ethel L. Sleight Barnes. As a teenager, Margaret studied at Presbyterian Ladies College in Melbourne before travelling to London with her mother where she continued her studies for another year. In 1928, at the age of 17, Margaret moved to Paris to further her studies in art, where she studied with the top instructors at the time.
While Margaret was living in Paris, the stock market crash of 1929 forced many students to return home because the value of the Australian pound drastically decreased. However, Margaret was able to remain in Paris by working as a correspondent for the Melbourne 'Herald'. From 1929 to 1931, Margaret wrote about society and fashion in Paris, and illustrated the articles with her own drawings. Known as 'Miss Peggy Barnes', Margaret's articles began as a monthly piece in the newspaper, yet her articles were so well received by the Australian public that 'The Herald' requested weekly stories.
In 1934 Margaret and her mother set sail for their first trip to the United States. It was on this trip that she met her future husband, Henri Malval. Margaret migrated to the United States when she married Henri two years later in 1936. After they married, Margaret and Henri lived in New York for four years, and then moved to Georgetown, Connecticut briefly before settling in Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1942. Margaret remained in Ridgefield for the rest of her life.
During World War II, Margaret became heavily involved in the war effort. She joined the Ridgefield Chapter of the American Women's Volunteer Services (AWVS) early in the war and was an active and dedicated member of the AWVS throughout World War II. She took courses in first aid, poisonous gas response, and monitored blackouts. The AWVS also collected magazines to send to troops, raised funds by hosting local events and operated a transport service. Additionally, the AWVS ran an observation core for plane spotting. She was among the 200 volunteers who kept watch continuously from 8 December 1941 to 29 May 1944. After the War, the women of the Ridgefield chapter of the AWVS sold the car that had been used for the transport service and donated the $1,400 from the sale to purchase the town clock that still stands in the Main Street of Ridgefield.
It was during this time that Margaret donated and/or sponsored several Christmas hampers through the Australian Comforts Fund. Several of the soldiers who initially received a Christmas hamper from her wrote a letter thanking her for the package and from this initial communication, Margaret and these soldiers continued to regularly correspond with each other throughout the War. The Museum holds the collection of twenty one letters (some with original envelopes) and cards which were sent to Margaret from various Australian servicemen, most of whom appear to be serving in the Pacific.
Following World War II, Margaret remained continually active in the community, and volunteered her time and energy to numerous local causes. She was deeply interested in animal welfare and volunteered with an animal rescue group in the early 1970s. Margaret was also a talented artist and following the War, she spent a great deal of time painting and travelling. Throughout her life, Margaret travel extensively, which contributed greatly to her artwork. Margaret's art represented her own interpretations of nature and landscapes. She used all types of media, but her works were mainly painted in watercolour, oil and acrylic paints. Margaret's vast and varied works included scenes from Australia, France, Hong Kong, Tahiti and her home town of Ridgefield. She made an effort to visit her mother in Australia regularly, and each time she went there, Margaret would return home via a different route so that she could see the world on her way.
Margaret Malval was among the founding members of the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, which began in 1974. She exhibited her works frequently in group shows and also had her own show in New York City. Margaret's artworks are represented in various public and private collections in the United States, England, France and Australia. Margaret Malval died in Ridgefield, Connecticut on 20 January 2008, aged 95 years old.