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Joyce Enid Clarke (1915–2008)

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Joyce Enid Clarke, née Frew, late Johnston (1915-2008) schoolteacher and Communist 

Birth: 1915 at Dulwich Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, to native-born parents, Walter Lindsay Frew (1884-1974) and his first wife Letitia Gertrude (Letty), née Moorhead (1889-1921). Both parents were teachers. Marriages: (1) 29 August 1939 in Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney, to native-born John Charles Julius Johnston (1907-1975), a teacher of French. The marriage ended in divorce. They had one son who died in 1945. (2) 28 August 1958 in the Registrar General’s Office, Sydney, to native-born, Raymond George Clarke (1916-1998). A storeman and packer, he was a long-time secretary of the Wool and Basil Workers Federation of Australia and was also a divorcee. Death: 26 August 2008 in Sydney. 

  • Educated at St George Girls’ High School, Kogarah, she graduated BA with honours in English at the University of Sydney in May 1936 and obtained a Diploma of Education. An evangelical Christian, she joined the Student Christian movement at university. In 1937 she started teaching at Cootamundra.
  • Long term representative of NSW Teachers' Federation at many schools, peripatetically located throughout her career in rural New South Wales, Newcastle, Marrickville, Canterbury Bankstown, Collaroy. Represented Cootamundra on Teachers' Federation Council 1937-1939.
  • Moving to Sydney from Tamworth in 1943 she and her husband joined the Communist Party of Australia. Both saw themselves as Marxists until their deaths.
  • Having been forced to resign from the Department of Education in 1939 when she married, under the provisions of the Married Women (Lecturers and Teachers) Dismissal Act of 1932, when the act was repealed in 1949 she returned to teaching.
  • In 1949 she was an executive member of the Women Teachers' Association. In 1963 she joined the Teachers’ Federation executive, one of the 'younger generation of communists' who supported Sam Lewis in Cold War. She forcefully argued at the 1966 annual conference that claims Lewis had seized control of the Federation 'to advance the Communist cause' belittled the intelligence of teachers.
  • In 1973 she was the only female candidate to senior officers of Federation executive. From 1971 until her retirement in 1976 she was principal of Kogarah High School.
  • She was national director of the Australian peace committee and in 1982 attended the United Nations special session on peace at New York, United States of America.
  • Her memoir, Kogarah High School; our struggle for quality education, was published in 2002.

, 8 September 1965; John O’Brien, A divided unity! politics of NSW teacher militancy since 1945 (Sydney,1987).

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Citation details

'Clarke, Joyce Enid (1915–2008)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Frew, Joyce Enid
  • Johnston, Joyce Enid

Dulwich Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


26 August, 2008 (aged ~ 93)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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