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Palmer, Aileen Yvonne (1915–1988)

Aileen Palmer, by Peggy Maguire, 1939

Aileen Palmer, by Peggy Maguire, 1939

National Library of Australia, 2283023

Aileen Palmer (1915-1988)

Born: 6 April 1915. London, England. Daughter of Edward Vivian (Vance) Palmer and Janet Gertrude (Nettie) nee Higgins, writers, left-intellectuals and cultural critics. Unmarried. Died 21 December 1988. Ballarat, Victoria.

  • Eldest of two children; spent childhood at Caloundra, Queensland;
  • educated at home by mother until age of 10, studying French, German and Latin. Studied at Melbourne University, graduating 1934 with first class honours in French Language and Literature.
  • During student years, joined University Labour Club; joined CPA 1934, organiser for Melbourne campaign in support of Egon Kisch.
  • To London with parents and sister, Helen, in early 1935; with sister became involved in anti-fascist activities in city; spent several months in Vienna in later 1935, meeting German-speaking anti-fascists.
  • To Barcelona with parents May 1936, establishing links with anti-fascist German refugees in city; through the Communist Party of Catalonia, found work as a typist and translator with Olympiad Popular, anti-fascist counter to the Berlin Olympics. Witnessed street fighting in Barcelona following rebellion by generals against republican government in July 1936;
  • evacuated to France with parents, despite her opposition to leaving;
  • in France, separated from parents and resolved to work in support of the Spanish Republic;
  • to London, becoming involved in British Committee for the Victims of Fascism; volunteered to serve as interpreter and typist in first British Medical Aid Unit sent to Spain, August 1936 served in field hospitals at Granen and Albacete, then to mid-1937 at International Brigade hospital at Escorial;
  • returned to Spain after brief leave in London; caught up in republican winter retreat from Teruel; to base hospital near Barcelona;
  • May 1938 returned to England to recuperate. Though not returning to Spain, she continued to work for the republican cause until its defeat in 1939, writing articles, distributing leaflets and lobbying; fined in 1939 for throwing paint on British prime minister's residence. Via parents, she supplied information on the war to the Australian Spanish Relief Committee. In August 1939, at the request of the Australian Committee, travelled to southern France to report on conditions in refugee camps.

Labour History, 52, May 1987, pp.75-87.

Citation details

'Palmer, Aileen Yvonne (1915–1988)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/palmer-aileen-yvonne-15015/text39383, accessed 24 September 2021.

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