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Mary Divine Pearl Hickey (1901–1994)

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Mary Divine Pearl (Pearl) Hickey, née Paton (1901-1994) nurse, and women’s auxiliary organiser 

Birth: 25 September 1901 at Sewell’s Creek, NSW, daughter of native-born parents Richard David Paton, (1863-1901) and Mary Isabel, née Sewell, later Langford (1877-1956). Marriage: 18 June 1927 in Hamilton, Newcastle, to native-born Thomas Michael Hickey (1901-1994), railway worker, trade unionist and Communist Party of Australia member. They had one daughter and one son. Death: 15 March 1994 in a nursing home at Berkeley Vale, NSW. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Four months before Pearl was born her father had died from injuries received from a fall of earth while working in a mine race at Native Dog Creek, near Oberon, NSW. Her mother married Thomas Langford (1864-1944) on 4 June 1906.
  • Lived on the family farm, near Rockley, with her mother, stepfather and half-siblings. Won a scholarship to attend Bathurst High School. Family moved to Young. After a couple of years, she returned to Bathurst and worked for a dentist.
  • Moved to Sydney, then Bowral, working as a family nurse during the “Spanish Flu” epidemic. Later began working as a psychiatric nurse, at one time at Callan Park then at Stockton Psychiatric Hospital, near Newcastle, where she got to know her future husband.
  • Moved to Canberra to work as one of the early staff at the community hospital under Dr John James and Matron Gertrude Lawlor. Saw the ceremonial opening of Parliament House in 1927.
  • After her marriage she lived in Newcastle, where she attended Workers’ Educational Association lectures by Clarrie Martin. She joined the labour movement and the Housewives Association.
  • Pearl became a founder of the Australian Railways Union Women's Auxiliary branch at Newcastle (1934). In 1938 she attended Auxiliary's State conferences as the Newcastle branch delegate and in 1943 was elected branch secretary, a position she held until 1946.
  • Active in the Unemployed Workers Movement in the 1930s and in the peace movement.
  • Helped to organise the International Women's Day celebrations in Newcastle in 1937 and the annual May Day festivities.
  • Moved to Sydney in 1943.
  • Cause of death cerebral thrombosis and generalised atherosclerosis.

Ross Edmonds, In Storm and Struggle. A History of the Communist Party in Newcastle 1920-1940 (Newcastle, 1991); information from Jude Conway 2023; interview 1987 with Kay Davies:; Gertrude Lawlor, Australian Women's Register, .

Citation details

'Hickey, Mary Divine Pearl (1901–1994)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Paton, Mary Divine Pearl

25 September, 1901
Essington, New South Wales, Australia


15 March, 1994 (aged 92)
Berkeley Vale, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cerebral thrombosis

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.

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