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Ruth Attwell Higgins (1893–1984)

by Sue Tracey

This article was published:

Higgins, Ruth Attwell, née Cattell (1893-1984) school teacher, Christian Socialist and Labor activist

Birth: 5 March 1893 at Uralla, New South Wales, daughter of native-born parents Thomas William Cattell (1855-1938), road contractor, carrier and later farmer, and Sarah Ann, née Bamberry (1852-1943). Marriage: 1924 at Uralla, NSW to native-born Arthur Roy (Roy) Higgins (1885-1956), clerk. They had one son. Death: 3 July 1984 in hospital at Maitland, NSW; usual residence: Largs Avenue, Largs. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Attended Sydney Teacher's College, becoming a teacher. Joined Australian Labor Party about 1933. Active in the United Nations Union, as supporter of Chinese refugees in 1938 and as organising secretary of the Newcastle branch in the 1950s.
  • Key figure in the Christian Socialist Movement in the Hunter Valley during 1930s and 1940s. Friend of Dame Mary Gilmore and Kylie Tennant. Was a discussion group leader for the Workers Educational Association in 1941.
  • Her husband Roy, a justice of the peace and member of the Ironworkers’ Union, was secretary of the Georgetown-Waratah branch of the ALP in 1941 and president in 1944. He was a Labor alderman on Newcastle City Council from 1941 until defeated in 1944.
  • Ruth was an independent candidate for the Newcastle City Council in December 1944 and December 1950.
  • Delegate to NSW ALP State Conference and Labor Women's Conference where she frequently spoke. Member, NSW ALP Central Executive in 1962-1963. Taught future Labor MHR Charles Jones.
  • Diocesan Secretary of the Mothers' Union. Assisted in establishment of Durungaling Hostel for Aboriginal Girls.
  • Peace activist who, with Isabel Longworth, established a local branch of the International Peace Campaign.
  • With Eileen Barnard Kettle she established a branch of Canon Shepherd's Peace Pledge Union. In 1954 she was vice chairman of Newcastle Western Suburbs Hospital.
  • Cause of death: congestive cardiac failure.

NSW ALP Conference Book, 1962-63; R. Higgins, A History of the Christian Socialist Movement, Hunter Region, 1983.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Sue Tracey, 'Higgins, Ruth Attwell (1893–1984)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Cattell, Ruth Attwell

5 March, 1893
Uralla, New South Wales, Australia


3 July, 1984 (aged 91)
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

Key Organisations
Key Places
Political Activism