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Lalor, Philomena (Minnie) (1860–1923)

by Chris Cunneen

Philomena '(Minnie) Lalor (1860-1923) schoolteacher, Labor party activist and community worker

Birth: 1860 in Bathurst, New South Wales, daughter of Michael Russell (1815-1885), carpenter, and Rebecca, née Doyle (1818-1878). Marriage: 5 January 1886 at St Benedict’s Church, Sydney to Melbourne-born James Daniel Lalor (1852-1899), a draper. They had five daughters. Death: 12 April 1923 in hospital at Randwick, NSW. Religion: Catholic. 

  • At her marriage she was a schoolteacher residing at Blayney, NSW.

  • Death of her husband left her with four surviving daughters to raise. For many years she resided at Randwick and Paddington.
  • A long-standing delegate to the Labor Women’s Central Organizing Committee (LWCOC), Mrs Lalor was a founder of the Domestic Workers Union in NSW in 1908. She became its delegate to the Sydney Labor Council. In 1910 she was elected Labour Council’s alternate delegate to the Political Labor League conference. She pressed the council to act on the need to remedy sweated conditions of needlewomen and machinists in Sydney.
  • In 1909 a delegate for Waverley Political Labor League, she was an advocate for the nationalisation of hospitals. In later years she was an active member of the Paddington Labor League. During the World War I she continued to take a progressive role at ALP conferences, supporting the views of William Chidley, urging a minimum wage for women, though she opposed the motion to raise the school age from 14 to 16: “I have a great struggle to keep my own children until they are 14. They earn very little, but it’s something towards their keep.” She supported industrialists’ criticism of W.A.Holman.
  • With some other members of the LWCOC she was a public opponent of conscription in 1916 and 1917, in the latter year addressing crowded meetings in country NSW. Following a split in Labor, Mrs Lalor was appointed to the executive of the Australian Labor Party’s NSW branch in October 1919.
  • She was a foundation member of the Workers’ Educational Association, and closely connected with several charitable organisations, including the Australian Society for the Protection of Children, of which she was sometime vice-president.
  • Died of diabetes following two months in hospital.

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Lalor, Philomena (Minnie) (1860–1923)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/lalor-philomena-minnie-32641/text40518, accessed 16 August 2022.

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