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Joseph (Joe) Swebleses (1883–1955)

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Joe Swebleses, 1906

Joe Swebleses, 1906

Swebleses, Joseph (Joe) (1883-1955) tobacconist, clerk, gaoled Socialist and trade union official 

Born: 1883 at Whitechapel, London, England, son of Julius Swebleses (1855-1901), tobacco worker, and Catherine (Kitty), née Levy (or Pincus) (1855-1926). Marriage: 1917 to Margaret Ann, née O’Brien, late Anderson (1868-1963), a divorcée with two adult children. They had no children. Death: 28 May 1955 in his usual residence at Margaret Street, Clayton, Melbourne, Victoria. Religion: Rationalist, his family was Jewish. 

  • Family migrated to Victoria about 1889. Joseph was educated at the East Melbourne Hebrew School.
  • Active member of Abbotsford branch of the Political Labour Council in 1904. Secretary of SQC choir.
  • His arrest and gaoling for fourteen days in October 1906, having refused to pay a fine of 40 shillings for speaking at a street corner, began the Prahran Free Speech campaign in 1906. Active member of Victorian Socialist Party and in 1908 was its treasurer. That year he was campaign manager for Percy Laidler’s VSP’s candidacy for the seat of Collingwood. Claimed to be a close associate of Tom Mann.
  • In 1911 was president of the newly-formed union of cigarette workers in Melbourne.
  • Moved to Western Australia in 1913. Secretary of local branch of Clerks’ Union in Perth. Expelled from the Labor Federation’s Council in 1915 because of anti-war sentiments.
  • Returned to Melbourne in 1916. Secretary of Victorian Socialist Party in 1917-1918. Member of Industrial Worker of the World Club, Melbourne. Gaoled for three weeks for non-payment of a fine for publishing an anti-war pamphlet in October 1917.
  • Resigned from VSP in August 1918 and moved to Sydney. Joined Social Democratic League of New South Wales in Sydney in 1919. Became a seaman and worked as a steward in the 1920s. In the 1930s became a public servant. According to Bertha Walker, he “remained true and active till the end of his life”.
  • Cause of death: acute pulmonary oedema (hours), myocardial degeneration (years) and hypertension (years).

Bertha Walker, Solidarity Forever: the life and times of Percy Laidler (Melbourne, 1972), pp 24, 25, 26, 28, 47, 62-64; Recorder, No. 82 June 1976; Merrifield Card Index; Labor Call (Melbourne), 24 May 1917 p 3.

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Citation details

'Swebleses, Joseph (Joe) (1883–1955)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Joe Swebleses, 1906

Joe Swebleses, 1906

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Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


28 May, 1955 (aged ~ 72)
Clayton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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
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Political Activism