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Sarah Maud Kenna (1862–1933)

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Sarah Maud (Maud) Kenna, neé Mitchell (1862-1933) tailoress, feminist and trade union official 

Birth: 20 June 1862 at Goulburn, New South Wales, eighth of twelve children of Henry Armstrong Mitchell (1819-1897), a bus driver and mail contractor, born in London, England, and Sydney-born Sarah, née Hanslow (1834-1909). Marriage: 5 March 1884 at St Peter’s Anglican church, Woolloomooloo, Sydney, NSW, to Percy [Pierce O’Donnell] Kenna also known as Kenah (1857-1943), a woolsorter, later druggist, born in Ireland. They had four daughters and two sons before separating. Death: 11 November 1933 at Wells Street, Newtown, Sydney. 

  • Her maternal grandfather Peter Hanslow (1798-1866), born at Birmingham, Warwickshire, was a convict. He married twice and had eighteen children.
  • In 1890 her husband was charged with assaulting her. Soon after, he appears to have departed Sydney for New Zealand where he remarried in 1899 and had another family.
  • She was one of the founders of the first branch of the Australian Labor Party at Annandale.
  • With Harry Holland, Maud Kenna led the Tailoresses' Union (Sydney), formed in July 1901. She was founding vice-president and secretary from 1903 to 1910. In 1908 she was acquitted on a charge of insulting language for having called a man a “scab’.
  • Represented the Tailoresses' Union in Arbitration Court hearings. Was associated with Kate Dwyer, Mrs A. Freeman and others in “obtaining many reforms in the conditions endured, rather than enjoyed, by girl and women shop assistants”.
  • Was an old age pensioner in her later years. Cause of death: diabetes mellitus, diabetic coma.

Edna Ryan, Two-thirds of a Man: Women and Arbitration in New South Wales 1902–08 (Sydney, 1984); Bradon Ellem, In women’s hands? A history of clothing trades unionism in Australia (Sydney, 1989

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Kenna, Sarah Maud (1862–1933)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Mitchell, Sarah Maud

20 June, 1862
Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia


11 November, 1933 (aged 71)
Newtown, Sydney, New South Wales, 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 Organisations
Political Activism
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