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Kathleen Hotson (1887–1973)

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Kathleen Hotson, later Mrs Benton (1887-1952?) school teacher, peace activist and Socialist

Birth: 1887 at Robe, South Australia, daughter of English-born parents John Hotson (1835-1889), storekeeper, from Manchester, Lancashire, and Emma Macfarlane Powell (1841-1933), from St Georges East, Middlesex. Marriage: 21 March 1933 in South Australia to Melbourne-born John William Benton (1857-1938), a school teacher and a widower with three children. Death: 11 June 1973 probably at Adelaide. 

  • Educated at Dryburgh House school (later Presbyterian Girls’ College) and University of Adelaide. A 'student of political economy and social economics'. Became a school teacher.
  • During World War I she travelled throughout Australia advocating peace, feminism and socialism. She was regarded by authorities as a 'notorious sower of discord' and the 'embodiment of militant pacificism', she was a leading activist in the South Australian peace movement. Gifted orator and leading speaker for the Australian Peace Alliance (APA) and Anti-Conscription League (1916), addressing crowds at Adelaide's Botanic Park and at lunchtime meetings outside factories. Secretary of the Adelaide branch of APA.
  • Campaigned in Melbourne 1917, organising for the Women's Political Association and assisted Vida Goldstein's Senate campaign.
  • Active in the Women's Peace Army. In July 1917 she helped to form the Children's Peace Army, conducting lessons in socialism, pacificism and internationalism.
  • Was in Brisbane during 1918. Helped form the Queensland branch of the APA.
  • By 1918, she had widened her commitment to pacificism and feminism to embrace socialism also. Member South Australian Socialist Party (SASp)/Social Democratic League. Represented SASP at Easter Peace Conference 1917 and 1918. Addressed meetings of Victorian Socialist Party, Australian Socialist Party (Sydney) and Broken Hill branch of Industrial Workers of the World.
  • Assisted in the formation of the Queensland Socialist League 1918(?). Regular speaker at Brisbane Domain and at celebrations commemorating May Day and the Russian Revolution.
  • In 1918 she became women's organiser for the Shop Assistant's Union in Queensland but resigned after 10 months after becoming disheartened with the attitude of male unionists and the difficulty of organising women workers.
  • After her marriage in 1933 she lived at Torrensville, South Australia, and continued to advocate for peace and socialism.

Joy Damousi, Socialist Women in Australia, c.1890-c.1918, Ph.D thesis, 1987.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Hotson, Kathleen (1887–1973)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Benton, Kathleen

Robe, South Australia, Australia


11 June, 1973 (aged ~ 86)
Adelaide, 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