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Barbara Emily Boyd (1914–1993)

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Boyd, ‘Barbara’ Emily, née Bolas, later Primrose, then Purse, also known as Boles, (1914-1993) journalist, Communist activist 

Birth: 1914 at Tenbury Wells, in the Malvern Hills, Worcestershire, England, and registered as Beatrice Emily, daughter of Edwin Mavity Bolas, postman, and Charlotte May, née Baylis. Marriages: (1) 11 March 1938 as ‘Barbara Eaton Carnegie’ in Sydney to Hong-Kong-born prospector, sometime rubber planter, later Wing Commander Patrick Stephen Jocelyn O’Connell Primrose (1900-1968. He remarried in 1942 claiming to be a widower). The marriage was dissolved in 1951. (2) From about 1941 she was in de facto relationship with Clarence Morris Brockwell ‘Clarrie’ Boyd (1903-1970), school teacher and Communist activist. (3) 8 August 1951 at Registrar General’s Office, Sydney, to Francis Henry Leslie Purse (1906-1976), union secretary. Death: 5 February 1993 in Greenwich hospital, Sydney. 

  • Arrived with parents and siblings aboard the Balranald in 1928. The family lived at Turramurra, her mother worked as a midwifery nurse and her father as a gardener. Known in the family as Emily, she was a child nurse in the 1936 electoral roll.
  • Became interested in the left movement through her participation in New Theatre, Sydney in 1930s. Described as a stenographer, living at Kings Cross, at her first marriage.
  • On 3 September 1939 her husband, Patrick Primrose, enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and served overseas. Barbara moved to Perth, Western Australia, with her partner, Clarrie Boyd. They lived in 'Cottesloe Kremlin'.
  • From 1939 to 1945 ‘Barbara Boles’ also known as ‘Mrs Barbara Boyd’ was a talented organiser in charge of the Communist Party of Australia’s industrial work in WA. From about 1941 to 1946 she was assistant secretary, then secretary of the CPA in WA. Was highly regarded by Paddy Troy.
  • Described as “diminutive” and “intense”, she was sometime acting editor of the Workers Star (Perth), to which she was a frequent contributor.
  • From about 1949 ‘Barbara Boles’ worked in Tasmania as a journalist, and was State secretary of the CPA. Wrote articles for Tribune (Sydney) in the 1950s. Returned to Sydney and was a member of the NSW branch of the Australian Journalists’ Association.
  • By 1958 Mrs Barbara Purse was State secretary of the Union of Australian Women.
  • Later worked at Taronga Park Zoo.
  • Cause of death: carcinoma of stomach.

Stuart Macintyre, Militant: the life and times of Paddy Troy (Sydney, 1984), p 84; ‘Justina Williams’, Anger and Love:a life of struggle and commitment (South Fremantle, 1993); interview with Justina Williams; ASIO files: A6119, 2051, Purse, Barbara - aka Boles, Boyd, Holm - volume 1 and A6119, 2052, vol 2. (National Archives of Australia).

Additional Resources

  • profile, Workers Star (Perth), 25 June 1943, p 2

Citation details

'Boyd, Barbara Emily (1914–1993)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Barbara Boyd, 1943

Barbara Boyd, 1943

Workers Star (Perth), 25 June 1943, p 2

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Bolas, Barbara Emily
  • Primrose, Barbara Emily
  • Purse, Barbara Emily
  • Boles, Barbara Emily
  • Bolas, Beatrice Emily
  • Carnegie, Barbara Eaton

Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, England


5 February, 1993 (aged ~ 79)
Greenwich, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (stomach)

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.

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