Number 8

Didn’t know her that well…at all, but she sounds like someone I would have liked.

Women’s rights and peace activist

“Red Jessie” was an instantly recognisable figure in Australian political life for more than 50 years, a celebrity before television. The daughter-in-law, mother and wife of three chief justices of NSW, she devoted her life to women’s rights and peace issues. Well-educated and independently wealthy, she was a formidable campaigner in government circles and official bodies where she put the cases for equal rights and equal pay for women, for the appointment of women to public office, and the election of women to parliament. She lived an extraordinarily vivid life, meeting and working with Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Astor, Pablo Picasso, Jawaharlal Nehru and many others during a career that included being the sole woman in the Australian delegation to the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. There, with other women, she helped establish a permanent Commission on the Status of Women and became Australia’s representative on it. She left Australia during the ’50s when she and the United Association of Women, which she helped form, came under surveillance for supporting the Soviet Union. On her return, she threw her support behind the removal of constitutional discrimination against Aborigines, working with Faith Bandler and Pearl Gibbs towards the 1967 referendum. (Photo: ACP Library)


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