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Baines, Sarah Jane (Jennie) (1866–1951)

Sarah Jane (Jenny) Baines. Birth: 30 November 1866, Birmingham, England. Daughter of James Edward Baker, gunmaker, & Sarah Ann née Hunt. Married: George Baines, bootmaker, Bolton 1888. 2 sons (?), 3 daughters (?). Death: 20 February 1951, Port Melbourne, Vic. Salvation Army in early life.

As a child, assisted her mother as home worker; aged 11 went to work in Joseph Chamberlain's ordnance factory; aged 14 she joined her parents in Salvation Army work, attaining rank of lieutenant and serving as an evangelist and police court missionary in Bolton; subsequently joined the temperance movement and the Independent Labour Party. c.1905, joined Emmeline Pankhurst's Women's Social & Political Union; became a full-time organiser for Midlands and  Northern England, 1908; one of first suffragettes to advocate militant methods and to be tried by jury; imprisoned some 15 times; undertook five hunger strikes, the longest lasting 11 days. 1913, with husband, James, and son, George, charged with blowing up an empty rail carriage; released temporarily after going on hunger strike and smuggled into Wales. Migrated to Melbourne with family, arrived December 1913 and settled in Fitzroy. January 1914, began working for Women's Political Association in support of Vida Goldstein's candidacy for Federal seat of Kooyong; also joined Victorian Socialist Party (VSP) soon after arrival. July 1915, with Adela Pankhurst joined Women's Peace Army (WPA); February 1917, elected an officer of WPA; active in organising women's employment bureau; campaigned tirelessly against war & conscription 1916-17. Member Fitzroy PLC; active in Labor Women's Anti-Conscription Committee (est. September 1916) & Labor Women's Political, Social & Industrial Council (est. December 1916), representing Council on Workers' Defence & Release League; July 1917, elected committee member of VSP's No-Conscription Fellowship; September 1917, involved in People's Prisoner Defence Committee formed by VSP; became an executive officer of VSP September 1917; member of VSP's Open Air Committee, addressing gatherings in Melbourne and country Victoria on peace and socialism. Secretary, Women's Socialist League, 1918. In August-September 1917, with Pankhurst, led large marches organised by Women's Peace League against war profiteering and prohibitive cost of living; September 1917, arrested and sentenced to nine months gaol; October 1917, conviction quashed on technicality; December 1917, fined under War Precautions Act for displaying red flag on Yarra Bank March. 1919, tried and gaoled for six months for refusing to pay fine or sign bond not to repeat offence; released after hunger strike (reputedly the first of its type in Australia) prompted special Federal Cabinet meeting; her defiant act won wide acclaim in socialist press. After war, continued to work for Socialist and Labor parties. Life-long ALP member. Founding member Melbourne Branch, Communist Party, 1921 and again on its reformation in 1924; reportedly left party subsequently for breach of confidence and solidarity. 1928, appointed special magistrate in Port Melbourne Children's Court. Suffered encroaching blindness after World War II.

ADB 7; Recorder April 1976; J.Damousi Ph.D. thesis, 1987.

Original Publication

  • Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement 1788-1975, 2012

Additional Resources

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Citation details

'Baines, Sarah Jane (Jennie) (1866–1951)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 September 2020.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012