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Edward James (Jack) Holloway (1875–1967)

by D. P. Blaazer

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Edward James Holloway (1875-1967), by unknown photographer, c1929

Edward James Holloway (1875-1967), by unknown photographer, c1929

Herald & Weekly Times Portrait Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38849/1964

Edward James (Jack) Holloway (1875-1967), trade unionist and politician, was born on 12 April 1875 in Hobart, son of Joseph Holloway, labourer, and his wife Harriet, née Durgess. Joseph was killed in an industrial accident in 1879. Ted was unhappy and rebellious at various Catholic schools until, at the age of 12, he encountered a schoolmaster who encouraged his talents. Holloway worked briefly for a tobacconist in 1888 and then for a stockbroker; in 1890 he moved with his mother to Melbourne and became a bootmaker. In August he attended a public rally in support of the maritime strike. Deeply affected by the hostility of the government and the militia, and by the orderly response of the crowd of 30,000, he was impressed by Chief Justice George Higinbotham's support for the workers and thought that he stood out like a giant among the 'horde of mental and moral pygmies occupying official positions in the Colony'.

In 1892 Holloway was based at Broken Hill, New South Wales, where he did picket duty in the miners' strike. The violence which he witnessed strengthened his belief in the virtues of negotiation and conciliation. Next year he joined the Western Australian gold rush and frequently went hungry. Returning to Melbourne in 1894, 'Jack' (as he was now called) resumed bootmaking. On 15 February 1900 at Carlton he married Edith Isabel Clarke (d.1963), a 22-year-old waitress; Rev. Archibald Turnbull officiated. Although raised a Catholic, Holloway held no religious convictions as an adult. In his twenties he read rationalist, radical and socialist texts, and joined Tom Mann's Economic Study Circle which included John Curtin.

Duty led Holloway to abandon theory in favour of practical trade-union work. He represented the Australian Boot Trade Employees' Federation on the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and joined the Abbotsford branch of the Political Labor Council of Victoria. By 1911 he was on the T.H.C.'s executive-committee and was subsequently its chief negotiator. In 1914-16 he held the 'triple crown'—presidencies of the T.H.C., the P.L.C. and the eight-hour day anniversary committee. He was general secretary (1915-29) of the T.H.C., president (1916-22) of the Australian Political Labor executive (Australian Labor Party federal executive) and founding secretary (1916) of Labor's national anti-conscription executive, whose story he was to tell in The Australian Victory over Conscription in 1916-17 (1966). In 1923 he was an Australian representative at the fifth session of the International Labour Conference, held at Geneva.

After standing unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1925 and for the seat of Flinders in the House of Representatives in 1928, he sensationally defeated Prime Minister S. M. (Viscount) Bruce for Flinders in 1929. In March 1931 Holloway was appointed an assistant-minister in J. H. Scullin's cabinet, but resigned in June in protest against the government's adoption of the Premiers' Plan. At the 1931 elections he won the seat of Melbourne Ports; he was to hold it until his retirement in 1951. Minister for health and for social services from October 1941 to September 1943, he was minister for labour and national service from September 1943 to December 1949. In April-May 1949 he was acting prime minister; in 1950 he was appointed to the Privy Council.

A tall, fair man, Holloway became attractively animated when he spoke on subjects about which he cared. His career was filled with reforming achievements. As a trade unionist, he had been responsible for the establishment of the Melbourne T.H.C.'s disputes committee, the successful presentation of the unions' case for a 44-hour week and the resolution of countless industrial conflicts. As minister for labour, he helped to achieve the 40-hour week and 14 days paid annual leave for all workers. In addition, he gave the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration power to fix women's wages, expressing the hope that their rate would never again be less than 75 per cent of that applicable to men. He dissociated himself from Prime Minister J. B. Chifley's handling of the 1949 coalminers' strike.

Holloway's success was due not only to hard work, but to honesty and sincerity which earned him respect within and without the labour movement. Survived by his son and daughter, he died on 3 December 1967 at St Kilda and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at $7087.

Select Bibliography

  • A. A. Calwell, Be Just and Fear Not (Melb, 1972)
  • P. Hasluck, Diplomatic Witness (Melb, 1980)
  • R. McMullin, The Light on the Hill (Melb, 1991)
  • News (Adelaide), 17 Oct 1929
  • Age (Melbourne), 9 Sept 1959
  • Holloway papers (National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

D. P. Blaazer, 'Holloway, Edward James (Jack) (1875–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Edward James Holloway (1875-1967), by unknown photographer, c1929

Edward James Holloway (1875-1967), by unknown photographer, c1929

Herald & Weekly Times Portrait Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38849/1964

Life Summary [details]


12 April, 1875
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


3 December, 1967 (aged 92)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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.