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Gwendoline Mary (Ma) Croft (1886–1968)

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Gwendoline Cole, n.d.

Gwendoline Cole, n.d.

Gwendoline Mary (Ma) Croft (1886-1968) businesswoman, Labor activist, community worker 

Birth: 1886 at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom, daughter of Lancelot James Morgan (1859-1894), fitter and turner, and Maria Elizabeth, née Burden. Marriage: 2 March 1906 at Haverfordwest, Pembrokehire, to George Morgan “Archie” Croft (1883-1945), a marine engineer born at Beverly, Yorkshire. They had three daughters and three sons, one of whom died in infancy. Death: 13 October 1968 at Wollongong, New South Wales. 

  • Her father died when she was aged eight and her mother remarried, to Daniel Barns, a marine engineer.
  • During her time in the United Kingdom, she was an active member of the suffragette movement. When in Australia, she continued to correspond with the Pankhurst sisters.
  • Arrived in Sydney aboard the Bendigo on 14 February 1926, accompanied by four of her children. Her husband arrived separately.
  • The family settled in Wollongong. She was a competent small businesswoman, owning and operating a number of businesses in the Wollongong area including the Wollongong Steam Laundry. She was also a Justice of the Peace. She was self-taught, with no formal education or training.
  • Croft was heavily involved in Labor politics in the Illawarra. She was firmly of the Left of the Labor Party and was involved in the local Labor League. She occupied numerous positions in the labour movement during her lifetime including: president of the Werriwa Electorate Council; delegate for the Southern Division to Easter Conference 1931-1936; senior vice-president of Wollongong Branch; returning officer for the Illawarra Electorate Council; campaign director for Wollongong and district for Bert Lazzarini and chief scrutineer for the same during federal elections.
  • In November 1936, Croft unsuccessfully sought preselection as the Labor candidate for the federal seat of Barton.
  • She was a consummate charity worker in the labour movement, raising large amounts of money for the striking workers in the Port Kembla dispute of 1938/39. Croft enjoyed the friendship of Labor figures such as Rex Connor Snr and Doc Evatt. She was a consummate organiser, extremely capable scrutineer and excellent cook. She was an outgoing, talkative, and tough women.
  • Croft was also an active participant in local community work and in her retirement was heavily involved in local pensioner’s associations. She was the founder and first president of the South Coast Relief Council, raising money for the unemployed and the poverty stricken.
  • Croft played a prominent part in the steelworks dispute at Port Kembla in 1938/39. She was called upon to escort Robert Menzies, the then federal Attorney General, from his lunch at the Wollongong Pub to the Wollongong Town hall where he was due to give a speech to an increasingly irate group of striking wharf workers.
  • In September 1948 she stood for election as an independent for city of Greater Wollongong Council.
  • She is credited by some as coining Menzies’ nickname “Pig Iron Bob”.

Information provided by Henry Lee and Ray Markey.

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Citation details

'Croft, Gwendoline Mary (Ma) (1886–1968)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Gwendoline Cole, n.d.

Gwendoline Cole, n.d.

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Morgan, Gwendoline Mary

Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales


13 October, 1968 (aged ~ 82)
Wollongong, New South Wales, 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.

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