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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.

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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.

Ethel Caroline Lewis (1908–1985)

by Lorna Gilmore

from Tribune

This entry is from Obituaries Australia

Ethel Lewis died on January 19. She will long be remembered for her contribution to the cause of peace and socialism.

Many of Ethel's years were spent in devoted help to her family. Her father was a miner, "leaded" in Broken Hill and "dusted" in Cessnock. A militant member of the Miner's Federation, he died in his fifties after years of ill health. Ethel abandoned her honours year at university to become, as a teacher, the main breadwinner of the family.

Years later, as her mother aged and was not able to look after herself, Ethel gladly accepted the responsibility of her care. Then her husband Sam, not long after his retirement, suffered a stroke which robbed him of his power of speech. For two heart-breaking years, with tremendous courage and patience, Ethel worked with Sam in his efforts to regain his ability to communicate.

As a young and scholarly teacher, Ethel joined the Teacher's Federation and soon made her mark as a thoughtful and eloquent speaker. She was elected to the Federation executive and worked incessantly for such objectives as the repeal of the married women teachers and lecturers act, equal pay for women and in general for improvement of public education.

After her marriage to Sam and the birth of their much loved daughter Jean, Ethel relinquished her teaching and union work for a time, but her political work lost none of its enthusiasm and success. For years she was a leading figure in her parents and citizens federation.

Ethel was a constant companion and supporter of Sam in his many struggles in and out of the presidency of the NSW Teachers' Federation. McCarthyism was rife. Life was not easy for anybody espousing progressive ideas.

Ethel became a member of the Communist Party in her early years and was a prominent worker in the many campaigns of the party, including of course the fight against fascism and war during the thirties. Ethel will perhaps be remembered best because of her work with young people in the party.

It was a true measure of Jean's steadfastness and courage that she was able to sing at the funeral service of both her parents, first Sam and then Ethel.

A large circle of friends of all the Lewises gathered for Ethel's funeral, Wednesday January 23. There would not be many households anywhere that had through the years so many devoted friends and admirers as that of Ethel Lewis. Not many households anywhere would contain three such talented and caring individuals as Ethel, Sam and Jean.

Vale Ethel and deep sympathy to Jean.

Original Publication

Other Entries for Ethel Caroline Lewis

Additional Resources

  • ASIO file, vol 1, A6119, Lewis, Ethel Carolyn Nelson (nee Teerman) (National Archives of Australia)

Citation details

Lorna Gilmore, 'Lewis, Ethel Caroline (1908–1985)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012