Labour Australia

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Ruth Edith Don (1902–2003)

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

Ruth Edith Don (1902-2003) teacher and trade union leader 

Birth: 28 December 1902 at Laidley, Queensland, daughter of Queensland-born Alexander McDonald William Don (1867-1962), president of Queensland Teachers’ Union 1925, and Elizabeth Agnes, née Rees (1871-1962), who was born in Swansea, Glamorganshire, Wales. Never married. Death: 9 July 2003 in Queensland. 

  • Educated at Queensland state primary schools, Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School and Charters Towers High School. Graduated BA at University of Queensland in 1925.
  • First taught school at Gympie in 1926. Had a distinguished career in Queensland Education Department: 1954 became first female senior mistress of a Queensland High School; 1955 appointed principal of the Domestic Science High School, Brisbane, and of Brisbane’s Office Training College.
  • In 1941 was founding president of the Forum Club, in Brisbane, which sought to encourage women to speak in public and run meetings.
  • In 1947 was instrumental in establishing equal pay as Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) policy and helped draw up arguments for submission to Industrial Court in 1948 (unsuccessful).
  • 1948 was delegate to Australian Teachers’ Federation annual conference. Elected to union executive 1947, vice-president 1949. From 1951 to 1953 was the first woman to be president of the QTU.
  • 1954 North Queensland Council Representative and appointed to executive of union, remaining until 1957 while continuing to represent North Queensland until 1962.
  • Retired in 1968. Appointed life member of QTU in 1973.
  • In June 1992 was awarded OAM for service to Association of women’s Forum Clubs.

Photo and profile, Education, vol 33, no. 03, 29 February 1952, p 11; Queensland Teachers' Journal, July 1973; Andrew Spaull and Martin Sullivan, A history of the Queensland Teachers Union (Sydney, 1989).

Additional Resources

  • profile, Education (NSW Public Schools Teachers Federation), 29 February 1952, p 11
  • photo, Courier-Mail, 10 August 1945, p 4
  • short profile, Australian Women's Weekly, 3 March 1951, p 47

Citation details

'Don, Ruth Edith (1902–2003)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Ruth Don, 1951

Ruth Don, 1951

Australian Women's Weekly, 3 March 1951, p 47

Life Summary [details]


28 December, 1902
Laidley, Queensland, Australia


8 July, 2003 (aged 100)
Queensland, Australia

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.

Key Organisations
Political Activism