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Robert Ferdinand (Bob) Norman (1851–1918)

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Robert Ferdinand Burbidge (Bob) Norman (1851-1918) builder and carpenter, trade union official and Labor activist 

Birth: 25 May 1851 at Sydney, New South Wales, son of Robert Norman (1820-1880), jeweller, and Maria Jane Burbridge (1815-1894). Both parents were born in London, England. Marriage: 21 January 1875 at Trinity Church, Glen Innes, New South Wales, to Rachel Peck (1854-1938), born at Rosebrook, West Maitland, NSW. They had two daughters and five sons. Death: 25 February 1918 at Amhurst Road, Midland Junction, Perth, Western Australia. Religion: buried with Anglican rites. 

  • Worked as a builder in northern NSW. Was bankrupted at Gunnedah in 1885. Moved to Sydney.
  • Member Australian Socialist League, Sydney, in 1890s. Reputedly attended the Labor conference in Sydney in 1891.
  • Went to Western Australia about 1897. Apparently, his wife and family remained in NSW.
  • Bob worked as a builder and carpenter. Co-founder and treasurer of Kalgoorlie & Boulder Workers' Association.
  • Selected in April 1897 by the East Coolgardie Political Labor League, he was first 'Labor' candidate on WA goldfields. In 1907 he was president of the Eight Hours Day committee.
  • Unable to work from 1914, he was dependent upon the support of others.
  • In World War I he “warmly advocated the cause of national service and threw in his voice and influence with the National labor movement”.
  • Cause of death: valvular disease of the heart, dropsy and cardiac failure (12 months).

Verity Burgmann, In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905 (Sydney, 1985).

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Citation details

'Norman, Robert Ferdinand (Bob) (1851–1918)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


25 May, 1851
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


25 February, 1918 (aged 66)
Midland, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

Key Organisations
Political Activism