Collingwood Women

Collingwood Women

With International Women’s Day on 8 March, we decided it was time to introduce a page specifically about the women of Collingwood.

The Ladies Gymnasium 1881

Especially in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, men seemed to be at the forefront of activity. Women could not vote, even in the local Council elections if they were property owners, could not stand for Parliament, nor be elected to the local council. Yet as a proportion of the population they often represented more than half, and by no means all were staying at home minding babies and doing housework. They were artists, musicians, business partners, publicans, doctors, and nurses.

When we first started listing names for our Collingwood Notables database, we soon realised that men were outnumbering women to a significant degree, despite the fact that we were very aware of some remarkable local women ranging from early colonists such as Georgiana MacCrae to Grace Vale, one of Melbourne’s first woman doctors. A few years ago we started hunting for more women. Useful areas were teachers, charity workers such as Margaret Saddler, and welfare workers such as Matron Skiddy. We also began to notice how often a wife played a significant role in her husband’s activities. Harriett Kreitmayer is a good example of this, not only helping Max in his famous Waxworks but taking over the business, with her daughter, after Max’s death. Alice Baker and Margaretta Shelmerdine are others.

We plan to re-double our efforts to add more women to our Collingwood Notables database. Women take more effort to search out, but we have some wonderful people for you to read about.  Just added are some remarkable residents of 18 St Heliers Street in Abbotsford: ground-breaking gymnasts Harriet Dick and Josephine McCormick, and pianist Rieke Parker. We have also just added Lisa Bellear, Collingwood’s first Aboriginal councillor. And coming soon will be local activist and Councillor Marion Miller, first woman Councillor Rita Jamieson, and two World War I nurses. Check them out in the Notables database.

We will continue to add to this page throughout the year. If you have any suggestions, please let us know. Our women will no longer be neglected!

Monster Petition

The history of the fight for the vote by Victorian women was a long and winding one with many disappointments, but also extraordinary resilience and tenacity shown by amazing women who inspired women around the world with their actions.

Vale Sisters

The Vale Sisters

The Victorian Women’s Suffrage Petition, which is one such example of the work of these women, on its completion was 260 metres long and 200 millimetres wide and the largest known petition of the 19th century. Its tremendous length earned it the name of the “Monster Petition”. The petition was tabled in Parliament on 29 September 1891 and is now held in the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV).

Dozens of dedicated women with paper and pencils took to the streets to collect signatures, travelling by foot and by train in city and country and knocking on the doors of people from all backgrounds. Activist Vida Goldstein wrote later about her experience doorknocking for the petition and pointed to the strength of support in industrial suburbs such as Collingwood.  “The feeling of equality between men and women was most vital” she affirmed, “in the industrial suburbs. Never once were the canvassers met by a working man who said, ‘I won’t allow my wife to sign the Petition.’ On the contrary, if the husband opened the door he would call his wife saying, ‘There is a lady who wants to know if you want the vote’. And invariably she did.”

In just six weeks, almost 30,000 women and men from more than 800 different Victorian towns and suburbs signed the petition, affirming their belief that ‘Women should Vote on Equal Terms with Men’.  These amazing women convinced Victorians and particularly women that voting and having women representatives could improve conditions for them and their children.

The petition, which needed several attendants to carry it into the chamber, was presented to the Victorian Parliament with these words at the head of the 260 metres of names:

“To the Honourable Speaker and the Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Colony of Victoria the humble petition of the undersigned men and women resident in Victoria respectfully sheweth that the exclusion of women from the Franchise is both unjust to them and inimical to the welfare of the state.”

Did the Petition succeed?  Well, the answer is: the success was by no means immediate. In 1908 the nineteenth bill relating to women’s suffrage since 1889 was presented to Victorian Parliament. By this stage, the Commonwealth and every other Australian state had passed women’s suffrage bills.  This time the bill was successful, and the Adult Suffrage Bill was passed on 24 November 1908, 17 years after the “Monster Petition” was presented to Victorian Parliament. Victorian non-indigenous women were able at last to vote in Victorian state elections. Indigenous women were to wait decades longer for that right.

In 2008 to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage in Victoria a “Great Petition” sculpture was commissioned by the State Government of Victoria and the City of Melbourne from artists Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee. The sculpture was installed in Burston Reserve, near the Victorian Parliament building.

Almost one thousand Collingwood women signed the 1891 petition to give women the vote. We have extracted their names and addresses from the Monster Petition which has been transcribed and is available in full on the Victorian Parliament website (see link below).  For people who were specifically resident in Abbotsford, Clifton Hill or Collingwood at the time you can search through the extract attached below. All entries should have a name, an address and a link to the page of the petition on which the name is to be found. In some cases, the writing is not legible or has faded so some elements of the entry may not be there. We have corrected the spelling and transcription of street names. We will also be undertaking more work in identifying these individuals and making corrections to the name transcriptions, but if you find someone on the list and you have updated information, please let us know.

If you are researching a particular person whom you cannot locate on our extract, please be sure to go and do a more detailed search on the full Petition where you can search using different terms. This may allow you to identify the person whose name has been transcribed inaccurately, or who may, for example, have signed the petition when not in Collingwood. Examples of this are a couple of our Collingwood Notables Clara Stone and Grace Vale who worked or lived in Collingwood but appear on the petition with Melbourne University as location.

More reading:

Search the Collingwood names in the following PDF file:

Collingwood Monster Petition

Collingwood Women Councillors


Rita Jamieson

Cr Rita Jamieson at her inauguration as Councillor in 1963

As some of you probably know November 2014 marked the centenary of a significant landmark for Victorian Councils.  It was in November 1914 that the law changed and women for the first time were enabled and entitled to stand as candidates for local Victorian councils. The Collingwood Historical Society worked with the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (Vic) and the Victorian Local Government Association to ensure that they had all the relevant information and photos about Collingwood women Councillors and Mayors.

Collingwood’s first woman Councillor was Rebecca “Rita” Jamieson who was elected in 1963 to Collingwood Council 49 years after women were entitled to stand for Council.  Those of you who have attended our tours of the Collingwood Town Hall will also have heard about one of the other results of this research. Due to representations from the Society, the Yarra Council agreed in the 2014 refurbishment of Collingwood Town Hall to name one of the meeting rooms at Collingwood Town Hall the “Jamieson” Room.  This was a fitting tribute for the centenary of women standing for Council. You can read our Collingwood Town Hall tour here.

Labor Party member, Rebecca “Rita” Jamieson, was also an active member of the Union of Australian Women and one of a number of women from its Victorian branch who successfully broached the male bastion of Victorian local government. Rita fought to improve conditions for working-class women and children, and was involved in the establishment of an after-school program in Collingwood, and with Singleton’s Health Centre. She was a Councillor until her death in 1970.

Rita was our first woman councillor, but did you also know that the former City of Collingwood had SEVEN women Mayors and NINETEEN women Councillors? Whilst Rita served in solitary splendour as the only woman on an otherwise male Council and her successor Caroline Hogg started her life as a Councillor in the same way, Caroline was soon joined by Solange Shapiro and after that female Councillors were always present and a force to be reckoned with.  The names of the female Mayors and Councillors follow.


1978/79HOGG, Caroline Jennifer
1980/81SHAPIRO, Solange Marie Denise
1984/85JENKINS, Pamela Gail
1987/88BACKHOLER, Jennifer Margaret
1991/92FLEET, Marcia Jane
1992/93MEIER, Diane M
1993/94MOORE, Noreen

Councillors in date of election

Rebecca (Rita) JAMIESON1963–1970
Carolyn Jennifer HOGG1970–1979
Solange Marie Denise SHAPIRO1974-1985
June Mary BRADBURY1975–1978
Marion MILLER1976–1984
Elspeth McCRACKEN-HEWSON1976–1982
Robin Margaret TUNBRIDGE1980–1983
Pamela Gail JENKINS1981–1987
Jennifer Margaret BACKHOLER1982–1994
Jennifer McMILLAN1984–1987
Maureen O’BRIEN1984–1987
Mary CARUANA1986-1988
Marcia Jane FLEET1987–1993
Lisa BELLEAR1988–1989
Kate NEAL1989–1991
Helen CONNORS1991–1994
Diane MEIER1991–1994
Noreen MOORE1991–1994
Wendy JONES1993-1994

As part of our research into these Councillors, we have also been trying to track down photos and bios. We now have photos of all the Mayors and most of the Councillors but if any of you have any photos we would love a copy of them.  And we would also be interested in hearing from any of you who have any stories about these women or know what they did after they left Council. We have recently completed a Notable entry for Lisa Bellear which you can read here, and are working on similar documents for local activist and Councillor Marion Miller, and first woman Councillor Rita Jamieson.

If you have any info, you can contact us via the Contact Us page of our site.  But please be aware that we only include people in our Notables database after they have died.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can give with this project.

See also

Collingwood Council & Councillors – Collingwood Historical Society Inc (

Collingwood World War I Nurses

Over 3,000 Australian women are estimated to have served as nurses during World War One. The majority of these served in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). Others who were too impatient to wait for the first Australian convoy or who were already abroad when war broke out enlisted and served with other countries such as France and Britain. Other women worked as volunteers, with the Red Cross for example, when their age or marital status did not meet the AANS criteria.

Louise Bicknell

Unlike the men, women often were not commemorated in local memorials and honour boards set up in honour of the local soldiers. However, the City of Collingwood World War I Honour Roll, headed inaccurately “in Grateful Remembrance by the People of Collingwood of their Honored Men who made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Great War1914-18”, contains and honours the names of two women who served as nurses. They stand out to anyone viewing the board as they have after their names in brackets the word “nurse”.

Louise Bicknell died in Cairo on 25 June 2015 from septicaemia which developed from a wound in her arm. She left behind at 33 Langridge Street, Abbotsford, parents and three sisters who were Sunday school teachers at St Philip’s Church of England in Hoddle Street. Louise, who had trained at Moroopna Hospital and worked at the (Royal) Women’s Hospital, was at the time of enlistment operating a private hospital in Bairnsdale. She is believed to be the first Australian nurse to die in the Great War. You can learn more about her life in the Australian War Memorial Last Post Service for her here.  The second nurse on the Collingwood Honour Roll is Lettitia Gladys Moreton who died of enteric (typhoid) in Quetta, India, on 11 November 1916. Gladys had set sail on the Orsova from Melbourne on 17 July 1915 and served briefly in Egypt before being sent to India. Gladys had completed her training and worked for five years at Bethesda Hospital in Richmond, where her aunt was the Matron.  Gladys Moreton is one of many people on the Collingwood Honour Roll whose connexion to Collingwood is obscure, but a possible link may be that she travelled to war from Australia with another nurse with known Collingwood connections, Annie McHardy.

Lettitia Moreton

Aside from the two nurses who died, four nurses who served with the AANS and returned to Australia after the war have been found with associations with Collingwood. These include the afore-mentioned Annie McHardy who trained at (Royal) Melbourne Hospital and was working at the Melbourne District Nursing Service based at Floraston in Victoria Parade, Collingwood, at the time of her enlistment. Annie served in England and France. Elizabeth Regan trained at Launceston Hospital and was working at Royal South Sydney Hospital when she enlisted on 3 August 1915 on the same day as her brother Charles enlisted in Melbourne. Their mother was living at 33 Mollison Street, Abbotsford. Her brother died in action at Villers Bretonneux, and Elizabeth who served in Egypt and France was mentioned in dispatches for “distinguished service and devotion to duty”. The Homeopathic Hospital in St Kilda Road, South Melbourne was the location where Edith Tuxworth trained as a nurse. She was born in Clifton Hill where her family lived at the Yarra Bend Asylum and her father worked as an attendant. She embarked from Melbourne on 6 December 1916 and served in England, France and Italy before being discharged in January 1919 as “married”.  Elizabeth Singleton who had trained as a nurse at Stawell Hospital enlisted in July 1917 and served in Egypt and Greece (Salonika). When she enlisted, her parents and younger sister were living in Wellington Street, Collingwood while another sister continued with her nursing training at Stawell Hospital. Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Dr John Singleton and his wife Isabella and continued their care for others into her generation.

The six nurses mentioned above were all part of the AANS, but Helen Bowie of Queens Parade, Clifton Hill, is an example of a nurse who was in London at the time of the outbreak of the war.  She, along with her aunt’s husband surgeon Dr George Horne, served in French military hospitals in 1914-5. Her life is documented here.

These seven World War I nurses serve as examples of women who followed different pathways to and during the war. Do you know anything else about these women or of anyone else from Collingwood who served as a nurse during World War One?  Please let us know through our Contact Us page if you do.

Further reading

Rae, Ruth Scarlet poppies: the army experience of Australian nurses during World War One, 2nd ed, Ruth Rae Consultancies, 2012

Rees, Peter Anzac girls: the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses, Allen & Unwin, 2014 (first edition published in 2008 by Allen & Unwin as The other Anzacs)

World War One: a history in 100 stories by Bruce Scates, Rebecca Wheatley & Laura James,  Viking Australia, 2016

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