People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Mary John Grant (1886–1959)

This article was published:

Mary John Grant (1886-1959) nurse, typist, Socialist, Labor activist and peace worker

Birth: 6 December 1886 at Boweya, shire of Benalla, Victoria, daughter of Malcolm Grant (1843-1929), a farmer, born in Inverness shire, Scotland, and native-born Rose Anna, née Davidson (1865-1934). Marriage: 1917 at Melbourne to John Stewart Mullis (1887-1950), a labourer, later farmer, then miner, born at Christchurch, New Zealand. The marriage ended in divorce in 1934. Death: 6 May 1959 in hospital at Fairfield, Victoria; usual residence North Wandin. 

  • Was a nurse at Kew Lunatic Asylum from about 1908, but was dismissed in December 1916 after dispute with superintendent.
  • Joined Victorian Socialist Party (VSP) during World War I. Member Women's Socialist League and Women's Political Association. Member VSP executive during war. Prominent anti-conscription activist and impressive speaker, addressing many suburban and factory lunch hour meetings.
  • Active in Labor Women's Anti-Conscription Committee (established September 1916) and demonstration (October 1916). Member No Conscription Fellowship and Women's Peace Army.
  • In September 1916 was knocked down and severely assaulted by soldiers during anti-conscription demonstration and subsequently charged with failing to move on. In October 1916 she was fined £2 for leading deputation of anti-conscriptionists to Parliament House. In August 1917 she successfully resisted a police order to vacate open space in Hawthorn during an anti-conscription address.
  • Outspoken opponent of imprisonment of Industrial Workers of the World twelve. Active in Militant Propagandists of the Labour Movement, United Peace and Free Speech Committee and Workers' Defence and Release Committee, addressing Melbourne meetings protesting against Unlawful Associations Act.
  • In June 1917 toured New Zealand under auspices of Wellington Social Democratic Party. Also member of Hawthorn branch of Labor Party.
  • Two brothers Malcolm and Norman Grant and brother-in-law Ernest Hanks were associated with the No Conscription Fellowship and prosecuted under Defence Act for failing to enlist. Sister Myrtle was also active in Militant Propagandists, Women's Industrial and Social Union and Labor Party.
  • Throughout war, lived with parents and sister.
  • Unendorsed Labor candidate for Kooyong in 1919 Federal Election. A press statement stated that the central executive’s reason for refusing endorsement was that “Miss Mary Grant is a married woman, who wishes to retain and to be called by her maiden name”. She is described as “not married” on her death certificate.
  • Later became typist for Frank Brennan and a member of Victorian ALP's central executive, 1921.
  • Cause of death: cerebro-vascular accident and cerebral arterio-sclerosis.

Joy Damousi, Socialist Women in Australia, c.1890-c.1918, Ph.D thesis, ANU, 1987; Merrifield biog. cards, LaTrobe Library, Melbourne.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Grant, Mary John (1886–1959)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Mullis, Mary John

6 December, 1886
Boweya, Victoria, Australia


6 May, 1959 (aged 72)
Fairfield, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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 Places
Political Activism