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Lilian Sophia Locke (1869–1950)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Lilian Sophia Burns, née Locke (1869-1950) feminist, socialist and community activist

Birth: 6 June 1869 in Melbourne, Victoria, daughter of English-born parents Reverend William Locke (1845-1908), Anglican clergyman, and his wife Annie, née Seddon (1841-1915), who was born in Mottram, Cheshire, daughter of the vicar of Mottram and arrived in Melbourne in 1852. Marriage: 6 January 1906 at Christ Church, South Yarra, to George Mason Burns (1869-1932), miner and trade unionist, later politician. Death: 1 July 1950 in North Sydney. Religion: Christian Scientist

  • Honorary secretary of the United Council for Woman Suffrage in Melbourne in the 1890s and early 1900s.
  • Organising secretary of the Political Labor Council of Victoria and in the early 1900s the only female member of Melbourne’s Trades Hall Council.
  • Regarded as ‘one of the most single-minded and energetic champions of Social Democracy Victoria has produced’.
  • In 1905 was Tasmanian delegate to the Commonwealth Political Labor Conference. Worked with her husband as an industrial organiser in 1907-1910 in Queensland. She wrote for the Tocsin and Labor Call in Melbourne.
  • Supported many worthy causes, such as inadequate lavatories for women on Sydney trains and the Prisons Reform League in NSW. In 1918 as president of the NSW Association for Women she gave evidence to A. B. Piddington’s inquiry into the cost of clothing.
  • After World War I she mainly worked for the improvement of conditions affecting women and children, supporting better conditions for girls and children in industry and for the recognition of the rights of women, including jury work.
  • An 'excellent platform speaker', and an indefatigable worker in the interests of the Labor movement, she campaigned in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. She also wrote verse.

'Locke, Lilian', The Australian Women's Register, National Foundation for Australian Women:; Patricia Grimshaw, 'Lilian Locke', in Judith Smart and Shurlee Swaine (eds), The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, Australian Women's Archives Project, 2 May 2014,

This person appears as a part of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10. [View Article]

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Locke, Lilian Sophia (1869–1950)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Lilian Burns, c.1905

Lilian Burns, c.1905

State Library of Queensland, 66944054

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Burns, Lilian Sophia

6 June, 1869
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


1 July, 1950 (aged 81)
North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, 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.

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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