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Eunice Mary Bailey (1900–1958)

by Chris Cunneen and Jude Conway

This article was published:

Eunice Bailey, far right, 1957

Eunice Bailey, far right, 1957

Eunice Mary Bailey (1900-1958) community activist

Birth: 22 September 1900 at Auburn, Sydney, New South Wales, and registered as “Unice Mary” daughter of Thomas Edwin Farrar (1856-1937), tanner, and Mary Louisa, née Reed (1857-1929). Both parents had been born in Yorkshire, England — Thomas at Bromley, Leeds, Mary at Kippax. Marriage: 29 September 1927 at St Philip’s Anglican Church, Auburn, Sydney, to Arthur Lindsay Bailey (1901-1978), railway train driver, born in Victoria. They had a daughter and a son. Death: 19 May 1958 at Royal Newcastle Hospital, New South Wales, NSW; usual residence 75 Queen’s Road, New Lambton. 

  • Eunice’s parents and elder siblings arrived in New South Wales as assisted immigrants aboard the Selkirkshire on 13 January 1884. Her father set up a tanning business in Enfield, Sydney, and about 1889 commenced a tannery at Silverwater. He was a prominent figure in the growing suburb of Auburn, where he was elected alderman in 1902, and mayor from 1904 to 1906. J. T. Lang was a contemporary on Auburn Council.
  • Her mother was also publicly active, associated with the establishment of Auburn District hospital, the Red Cross Society and other charitable organisations at Auburn and later at Mittagong, when the Farrar family moved there about 1914.
  • Eunice was a prize-winning pupil at Laleham school, Auburn, played the piano and sang.  She remained in Sydney, then moved to Mittagong in the early 1920s.
  • After their marriage, the Baileys moved from Picton to Newcastle about 1936. Eunice became a member of the Newcastle Housewives’ Association (NHA) in 1939, the International Women’s Day (IWD) Committee, the New Lambton branch of the Kindergarten Union of NSW and the women’s committee of the Technical High School Parents and Citizens. She befriended Barbara Curthoys when the latter moved to Newcastle in 1953.
  • From 1946 to her death Bailey was secretary of the NHA and an active public figure in the city. She was a leading organiser in IWD celebrations throughout the 1940s and in the 1950s with the Union of Australian Women and Curthoys. She was also a peace activist, associated with the Australian Peace Council and May Day celebrations, and a powerful voice for women’s equality, urging that women be accorded equal pay and the right to serve on juries.
  • The aim of the NHA was “to raise housewives’ living standards, socially, culturally and economically” and the organisation regularly liaised with the Newcastle Trades Hall Council: “we are right behind the trade-union movement and what it stands for”. In 1949 Bailey and the NHA supported the miners log of claims, and urged better coalfield amenities: “the life of a miner’s wife was hard and primitive … amenities were few”.  The association was active in attempts to establish in Newcastle a clinic to detect cancer. Its secretary frequently advocated on the rising cost of living. In 1950 she said “the association would continue to work for raised living standards and world peace. It would fight for strict price control on all household commodities, homes for Australian before migrants, more hospitals and schools, and a £10 basic wage”. She opposed conscription in 1951.
  • Barbara Curthoys recalled that Eunice Bailey was a good needlewoman and made hats. “She was very ladylike . . . in manner, dress and the way she spoke.” Curthoys wrote that Bailey was “a stalwart on the IWD committee for many years . . . Her contribution to building popular support for IWD in the 1940s and 1950s was very significant and one reason that March 8 continued to be recognised in Newcastle as a special day for women. After her death the Newcastle Housewives’ Association gradually ceased to exist.”
  • Historian Margaret Henry, who lived behind Eunice Bailey in New Lambton for decades, remembered her as “very genteel, very well educated” and a “dedicated member” of the Communist Party of Australia. Marilla North and Vera Deacon confirm Eunice was a member of the Newcastle branch of the CPA’s Women’s Committee, together with Grace Scanlon, Marie Gollan, Jean Bailey and May Gow, and with them a great influence on the political development of the young Vera, who joined the CPA in 1944.
  • Cause of death: multiple metastases, carcinoma breast.

Barbara Curthoys, ‘International Women’s Day in Newcastle in the fifties and sixties: a personal account’, in Labour History, May 1994, No. 66, pp 122-128:; Jude Conway unpublished interview with Margaret Henry 12 May 2015; Marilla North, ‘Vera Deacon: a pen portrait part 1: 1926-1946’, Hecate, volume 38, no.1 & 2, 2013, p 180.

Additional Resources

  • photo, Newcastle Morning Herald (NSW), 17 November 1949, p 5

Citation details

Chris Cunneen and Jude Conway, 'Bailey, Eunice Mary (1900–1958)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Eunice Bailey, far right, 1957

Eunice Bailey, far right, 1957

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Farrar, Eunice Mary

22 September, 1900
Auburn, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


19 May, 1958 (aged 57)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (breast)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Key Organisations
Political Activism