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Emma May Fearnside (1908–2010)

by Allison Murchie

This article was published:

Emma Fearnside, n.d.

Emma Fearnside, n.d.

Fearnside, Emma May, née Drew (‘Mick’) (1908-2010) teacher in adult literacy and Montessori, campaigner for peace and animal rights

Birth: 27 May 1908 at Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, daughter of Alfred Drew (1860-1938), policeman, and Florence May, née Broadley (1879-1920). Marriage: 2 September 1933 at St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, Bradford, to Alonzo Fearnside (1908-1977), motor mechanic. They had one daughter and one son. The marriage had ended in divorce by 1949. Death: 11 September 2010 at Adelaide, South Australia. 

  • Educated at Hanson Grammar, Gipsy Hill College (Montessori Training), and Great Horton School, Wapping, United Kingdom. Worked as a school teacher. Secretary, Peace Pledge Union, 1927-1929. 1933, started first mother’s’ club at Great Horton School.
  • During World War II did air raid watch at night. In 1944 was member of Peace committee at Heaton. Husband served in the Royal Air Force.
  • Moved to Adelaide in 1963 and was offered position at Marryatville School and worked with children with learning disabilities, gave many talks and lectures. Founder of the Animal Welfare League in 1964. In 1964 started Citizens Advice Bureau in Adelaide, Directory of Social Services and Charity Card Shop. Member of Executive of Special Education SA.
  • Life-long campaigner for adult literacy, animal rights and peace. From 1967 to 2003 looked after Ou-Rata, a property of the Theosophical Society and now the Radcliffe Theosophical Centre. In 1977 organised a weekend seminar on Montessori Education which led to the formation of the Montessori Society.
  • Ran world tours on literacy to UK, United States of America, Switzerland, Germany and Sweden. Helped to introduce SPELD (Support for Specific Learning Difficulties) into SA in 1972. In 1974, started the Adult Literacy Movement in SA.
  • Voluntary organiser and committee member at SACOSS (South Australian Council of Social Service), Guides and Scouts. Addressed meetings at University of Adelaide and at trade unions. Wrote and contributed articles to newsletters, magazines, and was interviewed on TV.
  • Protested at the docks at Port Adelaide against the live export of sheep. Elected President of Anti-Vivisection Union in 1967, campaigned against Council practice of passing stray animals to laboratories for experiments, this led to stopping of this practice, reduced number of animals being used at Adelaide University, and cruelty free cosmetics. Founder, with three others of Animal Liberation to prevent animal cruelty, biggest campaign was against the fur trade and got rid of fur trade in Adelaide.
  • Representative on Adelaide University’s ethics committee where she tried to improve experiments on animals. President or Secretary of Vegetarian Society from 1968.
  • In 2000 was awarded the SA Senior Citizen of the Year Award. Received a 2003 Centenary Medal for Community Service. Still active at age of 94.

Citation details

Allison Murchie, 'Fearnside, Emma May (1908–2010)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Emma Fearnside, n.d.

Emma Fearnside, n.d.

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Drew, Emma May

27 May, 1908
Bradford, Yorkshire, England


11 September, 2010 (aged 102)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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