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Mary Patricia Miller (1920–2003)

by Allison Murchie

This article was published:

Mary Patricia Miller, née Kinnane (1920-2003) munitions worker, trade union official, Communist and community activist

Birth: 9 February 1920 at Yorketown, South Australia, daughter of John Peter Kinnane, farmer and jack of all trades, and Elizabeth, née Thomas, a teacher who also ran a boarding house. Marriages: (1) 1939 to Frederick James Warren (1915-1987). Divorced at end of war. (2) c. 1949, details unknown, to Frank Miller (d.1966), CPA member, teacher and political activist. Death: 22 June 2003 at Parkside, Unley, Adelaide.

  • During the Depression she was placed in an orphanage in Adelaide. Educated at Cabra Convent. Worked in guesthouse run by her mother then as a waitress and typist.
  • In World War II worked in munitions factory at Hendon in small arms section then at Penfield. Experienced bad working conditions and helped to form the Welfare and Production Committee. She was also active in Canteen committee, Trade Union Red Cross Committee, War Loans Committee and Social Committee.
  • Shop steward for Munitions Workers Union at Penfield then was elected women's organiser at Penfield in 1943, and organiser of Women's Auxiliary. Visited factories and addressed workers, fixed health and safety issues; travelled by bus to visit sites.
  • Organised mass walk out of women workers in strike. Through the Women's employment board campaigned to get women on 90 percent of men's wage (only if it was a specified male job).
  • On Council of Women in War Work. Delegate to Trades and Labour Council (TLC) and Australian Council of Trade Unions. Wrote articles for Labour News.
  • After World War II was blacklisted from working in ironworkers factories by Chamber of Manufacturers. Went into the food industry. Secretary of Committee for Forty Hour week Campaign in 1946.
  • Lived in Port Augusta and was secretary of Aboriginal Advancement League and member of Aboriginal Education Foundation. In 1949-1950 was organiser for Peace Council, campaign to ban the bomb.
  • In 1956 became a Primary School teacher. Foundation member of the New Theatre, a leftwing drama group which produced progressive plays, which lasted from 1945 to 1960. She was a very capable actor.
  • Part of commonwealth campaign to nationalise railways, banks, education and housing worked with TLC and Communist Party of Australia (CPA) to organise hundreds of meetings across the state. Member of CPA until Kruschev exposure of Stalin.
  • At Port Adelaide active in Aboriginal Education Foundation for 20 years, secretary of Aboriginal Advancement League.
  • Helped to establish the Older Women's Committee. Member of Progress Association. One of the early women members involved in setting up RUMA (Retired Union Members Association). Involved in the Council on the Ageing, helped to set up the Aged Rights Advocacy Service and President COPARPA.
  • Received the AM in 1994.

Oral History interview by Margaret Allen, held in State Library of SA and information from Allen Miller

Citation details

Allison Murchie, 'Miller, Mary Patricia (1920–2003)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012