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Ellen Margaret (Nell) McLeod (1894–1985)

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Ellen Margaret (Nell) McLeod, née Donovan (1894-1985) peace activist and Communist 

Birth: 1894 at Dartford, Kent, England, daughter of Patrick Donovan (1862-1933), carpenter and Mary Ann, née Stillwell (1866-1924). Marriage: 4 June 1913 at St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral, Brisbane, Queensland, to native-born Albert McLeod (1892-1947). They had two daughters and one son. The marriage ended in divorce in 1945. Death: 20 January 1985 in Prince Charles Hospital, Chermside, Brisbane. Religion: Uniting Church. 

  • In 1911 census she was living with her out of work father, mother and siblings at West Ham, Essex, and working as a counter hand at a caterer (Lyons & Co).
  • In late 1930s, she joined other militant women who met at the Trades Hall, Brisbane, and formed Women's Vigilance Organisations which later became the Women's Peace Army (WPA). Represented the WPA on the Citizens Associations for the Relief of the Distressed in China and at the Australian Peace Conference of Women in Sydney, 1938.
  • Active in the Boycott Japanese Goods campaign. Member of the Racial Hygiene Association and the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Committee.
  • Secretary of the Friends of the Soviet Union prior to World War II.
  • Joined Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1939 and formed the Ashgrove branch of the CPA in 1941.
  • In same year, toured North Queensland with George Taylor, MLA, to raise funds for medical aid and sheepskins for Russia. Was arrested in Roma for allegedly collecting money illegally but was released following union protests.
  • First woman elected to the Management Committee of the Liquor Trades Union (Queensland?), becoming an active equal pay campaigner.
  • During World War II, worked for civil defence through Air Raid Precautions.

(Sydney), 5 June 1985.

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Citation details

'McLeod, Ellen Margaret (Nell) (1894–1985)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Donovan, Ellen Margaret

Dartford, Kent, England


20 January, 1985 (aged ~ 91)
Chermside, Brisbane, Queensland, 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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