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Annie Creo Stanley (1865–1940)

by Ray Markey

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Annie Creo Stanley (1865-1940), trade union leader, was born on 16 October 1865 at Clermont, Queensland, and registered as 'Nanny', eldest child of Dublin-born (William) Michael Stanley, hospital attendant later umbrella-maker, and his wife Hannah Maria, née Benbow, from Wales; the couple had married in New Zealand. Creo spent her childhood in Sydney, where her father was a shopkeeper at Redfern, then pursued an acting career until suffering a lung ailment. On 29 March 1888 at the district registrar's office, Redfern, she married English-born Bronterre Washington Dooley, a carriage-builder and socialist. He deserted her and she reverted to her maiden name; they were divorced in March 1893. Dooley became a Labor politician in Western Australia.

When the Female Employees' Union was formed in Sydney on 20 July 1891 Stanley was elected its first secretary. The union was intended as 'a centre of action for working women' generally, but Stanley focussed on recruiting barmaids, waitresses and laundresses, for whom unions already existed. This led to a demarcation dispute with the Barmaids and Waitresses' Union, which the Trades and Labor Council attempted to mediate. The council actively supported Stanley's organizing in laundries, and in August 1891 she became embroiled in a strike at the Pyrmont Steam Laundry over the dismissal of a union member.

On 3 September Stanley became the first female delegate to the T.L.C. She declared that she was not afraid of any man in the council nor any press representative, drawing loud cheering from some delegates—one of whom, however, objected to female representation. The Daily Telegraph described her as 'dressed in semi-masculine attire—starched shirt, a high collar, white tie and open jacket, a small travelling cap set on a bunch of closely-cropped hair'. Revealing the extent of prejudice, the Bulletin declared that she 'should take up the manly custom of smoking a pipe'. A photograph showed a wide-eyed, determined young woman.

Stanley gained financial support from the council's affiliates for the strikers and for the establishment in October of a co-operative laundry at Redfern to employ them. When the laundry could not employ all the women, some complained to the T.L.C., which established a committee of inquiry into allegations against Stanley of mismanagement of strike funds. She and her supporters refused to co-operate, but she resigned as F.E.U. secretary at the beginning of 1892. An investigation by the union exonerated her from the 'malicious slander' and expelled four members who had laid complaints. As well, the T.L.C. cleared her.

Stanley also championed female members of the Amalgamated Tobacco Workers' Association, who complained that male union members were preventing them from working. After denials from the union concerned, the council lamely decided to ignore the issue, since it was 'an internal union matter'.

In 1891 Stanley had agitated for the adoption of female suffrage as Labor Party policy. She also advocated the formation of co-operatives in needlework and millinery, but failed to gain sufficient union backing to establish a co-operative laundry in Melbourne. In the Sydney laundry she pursued a 'communistic' ideal, as she described it: the women lived and laboured 'in harmony without the intervention of unnecessary authority, and dividing equally among themselves weekly the net profits resulting from their labours'. She was an active member of the Australian Socialist League. In 1893 she refused to act as an organizer for William Lane's New Australia expedition in Paraguay.

From about 1892 Stanley lived with the A.S.L. secretary E. J. Brady. After his divorce, Stanley and Brady married on 12 June 1895 at Smithfield registry office, but soon separated. Reputedly, she refused to give him a divorce. By 1903 'Annie Brady' was living at Granville. From about 1906—as Mrs A. Stanley—she ran a grocer's shop there, sharing the address for the rest of her life with Alvilde Christine Nielson, a milliner. Annie Creo Brady died childless on 30 November 1940 in her home at Granville and was buried in the Catholic section of Rookwood cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Female Employees’ Union, Rules and Regulations (Syd, 1891)
  • B. James, Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne 1886-1896 (Newcastle, NSW, 1986)
  • R. Markey, The Making of the Labor Party in New South Wales 1880-1900 (Syd, 1988)
  • Labour History, no 36, May 1979, p 18
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Oct 1887, p 5
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 4 Sept 1891, p 4
  • Bulletin, 5 Sept 1891, p 19
  • Australian Workman, 26 Sept 1891, p 3, 7 Nov 1891, p 1, 2 Apr 1892, p 1, 29 June 1895, p 3
  • Sydney Trades and Labour Council, General Meeting minutes, 1891-92 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ray Markey, 'Stanley, Annie Creo (1865–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Brady, Annie
  • Dooley, Annie

16 October, 1865
Clermont, Queensland, Australia


30 November, 1940 (aged 75)
Granville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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