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Kathleen Margaret Forte (1917–2001)

by Allison Murchie

This article was published:

Kathleen Margaret (Margaret) Forte, née Johnston (1917-2001) journalist and peace campaigner

Birth: 23 February 1917 in London, England, daughter of Charles Johnston, school teacher and Kathleen, née Hamilton, a home science teacher. Marriage: 1947 to Bill Forte. Death: 27 August 2001 in South Australia. 

  • Moved to New Zealand with her widowed mother at the age of 7. Educated at Church School, Wellington, The Friends Quaker School at Wanganui, Wellington East Girls College and Victoria College at Wellington University. At age of 18, was a journalist on Dominion newspaper in Wellington.
  • Won McMillan Brown Prize for excellence in English at Wellington University, led to job in New South Wales. In 1939 moved to Australia as journalist for Daily Telegraph in Sydney, worked there for three years. Worked on Vancouver News Herald for 6 months.
  • Moved to South Australia, and worked on News (Adelaide) as general news reporter. Left News and joined Peace Council as secretary.
  • Early 1960s joined SA branch of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), became secretary and worked to stop the Vietnam War. 1966 WILPF had the first anti-Vietnam War march held in Adelaide. Forte was among the 30 women who marched in single file outside the hotel where prime minister Harold Holt was staying. 1969 was Federal and State Secretary of WILPF for 3 years. With Jean Blackburn and Maude McBriar helped to reform WILPF.
  • 1970 handed out paper shopping bags at Central Market with “End the Vietnam War” logo on them. After the violent Vietnam moratorium in 1970 she helped in submission to Royal Commission on causes and consequences.
  • Involved with WILPF for over 30 years. Represented it on United Nations Association of Australia (SA) Executive, UNAA Disarmament Committee, Status of Women committee, People for Nuclear Disarmament and Time for Peace.
  • In 1972 convened a group that published “American Bases in Australia.” In 1976 attended national WILPF meeting with groups invited from all over the world. Marched in Vietnam War, Hiroshima Day, Palm Sunday and Gulf War rallies. On International Women’s Day held picnics with speakers in Peace Park.
  • From 1980 to 1982 federal secretary of WILPF. In 1981 met with international executive in Cartigney, Switzerland. In 1985 the International Year of the Child — coordinated group that made submission to Federal Government on Health, Education and Housing of Aboriginal Children.
  • In 1986 — International Year of Peace — initiated Twin Cities project linking groups in Adelaide, Minsk and St Louis, led to exhibition at Old Parliament House “Peace is Possible.”
  • Wrote first book at the age of 79, Flight of an Eagle, biography of Aboriginal activist Ruby Hammond. From 1982 to 1986 was section archivist for WILPF. 1986 received Medal of Order of Australia for service to community, international relations and peace.
  • In 1993 — Year for Indigenous People — led the WILPF group responsible for travelling school exhibition “Through Aboriginal Eyes”. In 1998 wrote background paper on Native Title.
  • Wrote numerous letters, submissions, articles for WILPF; was volunteer in UNAA office.
  • Active in National Trust, volunteered at Marble Hill for many years.

Oral History interview by Helen Chryssides held in State Library of South Australia; information from Cynthia James, WILPF SA

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Allison Murchie, 'Forte, Kathleen Margaret (1917–2001)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Johnston, Kathleen Margaret

23 February, 1917
London, Middlesex, England


27 August, 2001 (aged 84)
South 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.

Key Organisations
Political Activism