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Hooton, Harriet (Ettie) (1875–1960)

by Michal Bosworth

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Harriet (Ettie) Hooton (1875-1960), women's activist and editor, was born on 13 July 1875 at Biraganbil, near Gulgong, New South Wales, second daughter of Thomas Hooton, a miner from England, and his Victorian-born wife Louisa, née Howson (d.1923). Educated at state schools at Geelong, Victoria, Ettie moved to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, in the 1890s. In 1908 she joined the Perth branch of the Australian Natives' Association. A foundation member of the Women's Service Guild, the National Council of Women of Western Australia and the Perth branch of the Australian Labor Federation (from 1916), she worked hard on their executive-committees.

In 1920 Hooton attended the initial meeting of the Western Australian Parents' and Citizens' Association and became its first secretary. She organized its annual conferences which addressed such issues as the need for better medical and dental attention for school children, the benefits of new technology and 'cinema' in schools, requests for free uniforms and free textbooks, the provision of hostels for children from the country districts, and the pursuit of nature-study and the promotion of arbour days. Hooton travelled to London in 1924 and claimed to have attended the British Labor Women's Conference as a fraternal delegate. She also visited the League of Nations Assembly and the International Labour Office in Geneva. Her trip broadened her vision and heightened her interest in internationalism and world peace.

Back at Mount Hawthorn, a working-class suburb of Perth, she shared with her stepfather the house she had inherited from her mother. As secretary of the Mount Hawthorn Progress Association, she endeavoured to have a local kindergarten established. For some fifteen years from June 1926, she published the monthly Parents' and Citizens' Broadcaster from her home. In 1927 she began to edit the women's page of the Westralian Worker, using the pseudonym, 'Vision'.

Hooton's honorary secretaryship (1927-47) of the Labor Women's Central Executive involved her in conferences and deputations. The issues which most concerned her and her peers included equal pay for women, better health care for mothers and babies, kindergartens, free milk and free schoolbooks for children, better housing and world peace. Like many other Labor women, she opposed conscription in World War I and was subsequently against compulsory military training. During the Depression she was secretary to Bessie Rischbieth, president of the Citizens' Committee for the Relief of Unemployed Girls. Appointed a justice of the peace (1936), Hooton unsuccessfully sought pre-selection as a Labor candidate for the Senate in 1937. When May Holman died in 1939, she took over as president of the Federation of Parents' and Citizens' Associations.

More a Martha than a Mary, Miss Hooton was a stalwart campaigner for those causes she discovered through women's organizations and the Labor movement. After World War II a new generation of parents and young teachers found her a fine example of the old guard, but with ideas increasingly irrelevant to their world. She died on 21 April 1960 in North Perth and was cremated with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • Parents' and Citizens' Broadcaster, vol 1, no 1, June 1926-vol 29, no 111, June-Aug 1939
  • Westralian Worker, 19 Feb 1937
  • West Australian, 5, 7 Aug 1954, 23 Apr 1960
  • Western Austrailan Parent and Citizen, May 1960, Oct 1971
  • Education Department of Western Australia records (State Records Office of Western Australia)
  • Labor Party records (State Records Office of Western Australia)
  • Women's Service Guild records (State Records Office of Western Australia)
  • National Council of Women of Western Australia records (State Records Office of Western Australia)
  • Annual Conference of Parents' and Citizens' Associations, 1922 (State Library of Western Australia)
  • Australian Natives Association records (Perth branch, Mosman Park)
  • private information.

Citation details

Michal Bosworth, 'Hooton, Harriet (Ettie) (1875–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/hooton-harriet-ettie-10538/text18711, accessed 25 September 2017.

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