Eva Mary Seery: A Pioneer of Women’s Activism in the NSW Labor Movement

Andrew Moore and John Shields

(Notes from the files of the Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement, 1788-1975, currently being edited for publication by Andrew Moore and John Shields.)

Eva Mary Seery (nee Dempsey) was born at Yass, NSW on 27 February, 1874. Joining the newly-formed Grenfell Labor League, she campaigned for J.c. Watson and W.A. Holman in the NSW Labor Party’s formative years in the 1890s. After marrying Joseph Michael Seery at Wyalong, NSW, in 1900, she moved to Sydney, where she joined the Waverley Labor League. In 1904, Eva joined the newly formed Labor Women’s Organising Committee, delivering her first public speech during the state election of that year. Thereafter, Eva became a regular campaign speaker, organising for the Party in city and country electorates, establishing a close friendship with fellow Labor activist, Kate Dwyer. In 1906, she assisted in formation of the Surry Hills Labor League, becoming the League’s representative at the Party’s Annual Conference. In 1910, Eva was elected secretary of the Women’s Organising Committee; two years later she was appointed to the executive of the Political Labor League.

With Dwyer, she assisted in formation of women’s unions. She was president of Domestic Workers’ Union in 1912 and was a strong advocate of equal pay and eight hour day for domestic workers. An active social worker, during World War I, she as a member of the Stannumville (Canvas Town) Settlement and the Lady Edeline Hospital for Children. During the war, she also campaigned actively against conscription in both the city and the bush. She stood unsuccessful as the Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Robertson, 1918, was a delegate to the 1919 Federal ALP conference, and was a preselection candidate for seat of Sydney in 1921. A founder and president NSW Women Justices’ Association, she died on 22 May 1937.