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Lynch, Ellen Sarah (Lena) (1870–1943)

This entry is from People Australia

Born Ellen Sarah Doran, August  28, 1870 Sialkote, Punjab, India (now Pakistan) daughter of Thomas Doran, an Irish-born soldier in Her Majesty’s 58th regiment of the Foot, First Battalion, and Bridget Doran nee Smith. Her mother’s previous marriages were to Charles Daley and William Feaver. 

Married John James Lynch, a clerk, in Sydney, NSW, on July 29, 1896.

Four sons:  John Doran Lynch (1896), Francis Swinborne Lynch (1898), Oliver Patrick Lynch (1901), and Kevin Riviere Lynch (1904). Two daughters:  Veronica H. Lynch (1903) and Genevieve Helena Lynch (1910).

Died September 23, 1943, Randwick, NSW.  Buried in Roman Catholic Cemetery, Rookwood.

Educated in Northampton, England. Immigrated to Australia with her half sister, Mary Feaver, in 1885. Younger sister, Florence, emigrated in 1910.  May have worked as a teacher after arriving in Australia. Husband born in Mudgee, February 14, 1867, may have been a childhood friend of Henry Lawson.

Lena was an active member of International Socialists (Sydney) prior to World War I; active speaker for party; representative at Socialist Federation of Australia conference, Sydney 1908; refused to register son for compulsory military training 1911. Active member of Industrial Workers of the World Sydney Local during war; associate of Jock Wilson; regular Domain speaker delivered  talks on 'Women and  the  War';  witnessed Wilson’s marriage to May Ewart at Long Bay Jail on October 4, 1917. Ewart had become active in the Sydney IWW under Lynch’s tutelage.

After WWI, campaigned for economic rights for women and children.  In 1928, she represented the NSW branch of the ALP before the Royal Commission on Child Endowment stating that “the payment of a breadwinner’s wage to the husband did not recognize women and children as individuals at all – they were just appendages to men…the endowment would recognize the women citizens and the child.” Secretary of the Women’s Central Organizing Committee (WCOC) of the Australian Labor Party during the 1929 Jubilee Year.  Appealed to Prime Minister Scullin in 1930 as Hon. Secretary for the WCOC to request that funding for the unemployed “be earmarked to assist unemployed women workers, deserted wives, and widows.”  On behalf of the Hotel Catering and Restaurant Employees Union (HCREU) appealed to the Labor Council for equal pay for women and male organizers within the union.

Served as a Justice of the Peace in NSW. In 1931, was the third woman in Australia to serve a term on the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board. During the Depression she was involved with the Child Study Association founded in Sydney by Dr. Alan Carroll and the establishment of the Bertha McNamara hostels for single women.  Hostels honoured memory of Henry Lawson’s mother-in-law, a social activist, feminist, and bookseller. Lived with her son and his family in Kensington for the last decade of her life. Mother-in-law to Aileen Elizabeth Lynch, Superintendent of the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA) 1942 -1946. Tribute poem written after her death by James Chambers Eldridge published in Bohemia, a publication of the Bread and Cheese Club, Melbourne on October 1, 1963 (Vol. 14 No. 20).

I. Bertrand (1978). Film Censorship in Australia. University of Queensland Press; V. Burgmann (1995). Revolutionary Industrial Unionism. Cambridge University Press;

J. Damousi (1987). PhD thesis; J. Damousi (1994). Women Come Rally. Oxford University Press.  1987; M. Lake (1996). The inviolable woman: feminist conceptions of citizenship in Australia, 1900-1945. Gender & History 8(2); M. Lake (1992). Mission impossible: how men gave birth to the Australian nation – nationalism, gender and other seminal acts. Gender & History 4(3);  R. Webb (2007). Collaborative Women. Australian Feminist Studies, 22:52;   WCOC (1929). Our Silver Jubilee among the Heagney Papers, 1163/2(b), Latrobe Manuscripts, State Library of Victoria; F. Cain LH, no. 42, 1982; information from F. Cain 1992 (who refers to her as ‘Eva’);

Original Publication

  • Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement 1788-1975, 2012

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Lynch, Ellen Sarah (Lena) (1870–1943)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/lynch-ellen-sarah-lena-23077/text32349, accessed 20 September 2017.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012