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Clara Irene McGowan (1883–1964)

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Clara Irene Grace McGowan [known as ‘Irene’] (1882-1964) trade union leader and labour activist

Birth: 30 December 1883 at Macdonald River, Wiseman’s Ferry, New South Wales, daughter of Robert Alexander Books, farmer, and his second wife Mary Ann, née Douglas. Marriage: 1908 at Boomi, Moree, NSW, to John Joseph McGowan, storekeeper (d. by 1937). They had two sons and one daughter. Death: 10 August 1964 at Balmain hospital, Sydney. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Federated Clerks union (member?). Executive member of Caterers’ and Waitresses’ Union for 3 years; sometime vice-president. Delegate to Labor Council. Campaign director for seat of Martin in the Federal by-election in 1928. President of Martin Federal Council in 1929. Member of the Drummoyne branch of the ALP.
  • Appointed justice of the peace in January 1924. Was an occasional contributor to the Labor Daily in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • Member of the Women’s Strike Relief Committee and regular attendant at sittings of the Deportation Board in 1925. Organised and conducted the Five Dock relief depot during the timber-workers’ dispute in 1929.
  • Delegate to Australian Labor Party conferences for four years in succession representing the Cumberland electorate (1923-1925), then the Caterers’ and Waitresses’ Union in 1926. Central executive member of ALP for four years. Retired in 1932.
  • One of six delegates representing NSW ALP at Commonwealth Conference in Canberra in 1930. That year she was fined with others including Donald Grant for delivering a public address in Hyde Park without permission.
  • Cause of death: cerebral haemorrhage, hypertension, congestive cardiac failure.

Labor Year Book, 1933 p 173.

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Citation details

'McGowan, Clara Irene (1883–1964)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


30 December, 1883
Wiseman's Ferry, New South Wales, Australia


10 August, 1964 (aged 80)
Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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 Events
Key Organisations
Political Activism