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Ellinor Gertrude Walker 1893-1990: a woman for all times

There have been many individual and organisational activists promoting women's role in social, political and economic affairs since the beginning of the colony in 1836. No woman has been more involved in a wide range of activities than the relatively unknown Ellinor Walker, seen here in a 1930 photograph held in the Mortlock Library of South Australiana pictorial collection (B7327).

Ellinor Gertrude Walker was born in 1893 in Melbourne and the family moved to Adelaide when she was nine. She attended the Wilderness School and was awarded the Tennyson Medal in English at age 15. Having worked as a kindergarten teacher she opened her own school 'Greenways' (in the Montessori tradition) at the family home at Fullarton, and was its director for 24 years. At the age of 18 she and a friend formed a Girls' Club to study political matters: this led to membership of the Women's Non-Party Political Association, (which had formed in 1909), when she was 21. It was later renamed the League of Women Voters of South Australia. She was a member for its entire existence of 65 years, when it closed in 1979, for much of the time its indefatigable secretary. She was a member of the Electoral Reform Society into the 1970s. Her interests in women's rights continued throughout her long life, and she made a considerable impact on the lives of South Australian women.

She wrote poems, songs, plays and pageants for special celebration occasions, including Heritage in 1936 for the State Centennial. Many of these had a theme of the plights and rights of women. She combined her literary skills with her championing of women's rights in a most effective way. Ellinor Walker was awarded an O.B.E. in 1971 and died in 1990 aged 97.

The State Library of South Australia holds the Ellinor Walker archive, which is a large and fascinating group of papers (PRG 1019) with a detailed series list. The record group can be consulted in the Library, but permission to copy and to publish material should be sought from the copyright holder, The Society of Women Writers (SA Branch) Australia Inc.

Girls Social and Political Union minute book 1914-1917
Land of the blue and gold: song written in 1936 for South Australia's centenary
Interviews with Ellinor Walker
League of Women Voters 1909—1979 (formerly Women's Non-Party Political Association)
A lobbying success story: her role in amending the Guardianship of Infants Act
Memories as scriptwriter of the 1936 pageant play Heritage



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