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Sarah Anne Lewis (c. 1886–1961)

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This entry is from People Australia

Sarah Anne Lewis, also known as Sara (c.1886-1961) bookkeeper, trade union leader 

Birth: c.1886 at Melbourne, daughter of Irish-born Anna Maria, née Kenny, later Farrant (1851-1931), a seamstress born in Dublin, Ireland, and ‘James Lewis’, whose details are otherwise unknown. Unmarried: Death: 21 October 1961 at Oakleigh, Victoria. 

  • Electoral rolls show that from 1912 Sarah (or Sara) lived with her mother and her half-sister Mary Elizabeth Farrant (1882-1922) until their deaths. She also had a half-brother Edward Algernon Farrant (1879-1944) who from time to time lived with them. Her step-father Edward Henry Benjamin Farrant (1839-1920) seems to have lived elsewhere and died in Bendigo.
  • Worked as bookkeeper for Federated Clerks' Union.
  • 1906 elected secretary Hotel & Caterers Union. Activist on Women's Political Association, Victorian Socialist Party and Carlton Branch of Australian Labor Party.
  • Founding member of Labor Party's Women's Central Organising Committee. Peak of activism 1911-1917. Prominent in opposing sexism within union movement and Labor Party, as well as campaigner for equal pay. Considered 'the trouble in her union' by male Trades Hall Council executive.
  • During World War I was active in Women's Socialist League, Militant Propagandists of the Labour Movement, Labor Women's Political, Social & Industrial Council. Vice-president of Labor Women's Anti-Conscription Committee 1916 and in vanguard of Women's No Conscription Demonstration, October 1916.
  • Prominent in Melbourne's cost-of-living demonstrations 1917. Member, People's Prisoner Defence Committee 1918.
  • Secretary to Federated Hotel, Club, Restaurant and Caterers' Union from 1928 to 1935.
  • Later proprietress of newsagency in Oakleigh and worked at Caulfield Repatriation Hospital. Life-long ALP member. In 1958 secretary of Oakleigh Pensioners' Ratepayers Group.
  • Cause of death: chronic myocarditis, coronary sclerosis and arteriosclerosis.

Joy Damousi, Socialist Women in Australia, c.1890-c.1918, Ph D thesis, ANU, 1987; Merrifield papers, State Library of Victoria; Raymond, 1986; Alleyn Best, The History of the Liquor Trades Union in Victoria (North Melbourne, 1990.

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Citation details

'Lewis, Sarah Anne (c. 1886–1961)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012