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Clarice McNamara (1901–1990)

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Clarice McNamara, née Irwin, (1901-1990) educationist 

Birth: 11 July 1901 at Nowra, New South Wales, daughter of native-born parents Robert Arthur Irwin (1865-1952), school principal, and Annie Lillian, née Free (1868-1946). Marriage: 25 January 1929 at Marrickville, Sydney, to native-born William Morris Jutson McNamara (1893-1985), socialist activist. They had one daughter. Death: 25 January 1990 in a retirement village at Seventeen Mile Rocks, Queensland. 

  • Attended Sydney Teachers College, developing an interest in sociology and psychology. Taught French in NSW High Schools, becoming a departmental examiner in French.
  • Diligent reader of overseas books and journals, particularly publications of the International of Workers in Educational Services, an affiliate of the Red International of Labour Unions, becoming a member of the British Educational Workers League and alerting local teacher-activists to the British example. Founding member, with Sam Lewis, Lewis Rodd, and A. C. Paddison, of the Educational Workers League in Sydney in 1931. Also instrumental in securing Hetty Ross's involvement in the League.
  • In 1930s, wrote for Communist Party of Australia's Working Women and various union journals, including Common Cause, under pseudonym ‘Ann S. Scarlitt’. Active in Friends of the Soviet Union in 1930s.
  • In 1937 helped found New Education Fellowship (NEF), becoming honorary secretary first for NSW Section (1938) and subsequently for Federal Council. Represented NEF at state, national and international level.
  • In 1953 surveyed parent education in Britain for British Council of NEF, with report subsequently published by UNESCO.
  • Noted broadcaster and lecturer on educational and sociological subjects; Author of 'Trailing the Twentieth Century', unpublished autobiography, 1984(?).
  • Cause of death: cerebrovascular accident and generalised atherosclerosis.

McNamara Family Papers, ML MSS 4430; B. A. Mitchell, Teachers, Education and Politics (Brisbane, 1975); Dorothy Cass. ‘Clarice Irwin’s visions for education in Australia in the 1020s and 1930s: “what might be”, History of Education Review, Vol 48, No 2, 11 November 2019, pp 198-213.

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'McNamara, Clarice (1901–1990)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012