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John William Clapham (1870–1926)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Clapham, John William (1870-1926) master tailor and trade union official

Birth: 19 May 1870 at Paddington, London, England, son of Michael Leaf Clapham (1837-1900), master tailor, and Sarah, née Simpson (c.1837-1884). Marriage: 18 June 1910 in Westbourne Park Baptist chapel, Paddington, London, England, to Elizabeth Morgan. Death: 4 July 1926 in his home at Cottesloe, Perth, Western Australia. Religion: Congregationalist. 

  • After private schooling, was educated from 13 October 1880 at St Matthew’s school, Westminster. By 1901 was a master tailor at Paddington.
  • Arrived in WA with his wife about 1914. Followed his trade of tailoring. Always a keen supporter of the Australian Labor Party. “A reader, a quiet-spoken man, charitable in his views and unshakable in his faith in the Cause”.
  • Successful in improving the organisation of his fellow-workers in the clothing trade. In 1917 he was appointed salaried secretary of the South-West Clothing Trades Union. With Jean Beadle he was active in hearings before the Arbitration Court to increase wages and improve working conditions for women workers. Held the position until his death.
  • Was “one of the most painstaking union secretaries in WA. He presents his facts at conferences and before the courts with meticulous care and exactitude.” Amongst his achievements was to frame amendments to the Shops and Factories Act. Was spokesman on this subject at the ALP congress.
  • With his wife he was an office-holder in the Citizens’ Vigilance Committee, “formed to watch the administration of the amended Health Act regarding venereal diseases, and to foster the education of the public concerning sex hygiene, sex relationships and other kindred subjects”.
  • Delegate to the Australian Labor Federation metropolitan council. Elected trustee of the Metropolitan Council of the ALP.
  • Committee-member of the Industrial Vigilance Committee, advocating, among other things, “full citizenship for women”. Also prominent in raising funds for the Girls’ Club.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Clapham, John William (1870–1926)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

John Clapham, 1921 [detail]

John Clapham, 1921 [detail]

Westralian Worker (Perth,) 16 December 1921, p 1

Life Summary [details]


19 May, 1870
London, Middlesex, England


4 July, 1926 (aged 56)
Cottesloe, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism