Australian Dictionary of Biography

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

Beveridge, Dorothy Christina (1894–1978)

by Louise Chappell and Lenore Coltheart

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Dorothy Christina Beveridge (1894-1978), public servant, was born on 21 November 1894 at Paddington, Sydney, eldest child of English-born Robert Christopher Beveridge (d.1905), accountant, and his wife Matilda, née MacConaghy, a Sydneysider. Dorothy was educated at Sydney Girls' High School where in 1910 she passed the junior public examination. Having trained at the Metropolitan Business College, in 1911 she was employed by the Public Service Association of New South Wales. Next year she joined the State public service as a typist at the Department of Public Works, with an annual salary of £95. Although the Labor premier W. A. Holman had that year announced a commitment to 'equal pay for equal work', the policy implemented by the Public Service Board limited wages, promotion prospects and tenure for women by appointing them to jobs 'of more or less mechanical nature'.

In 1915 Beveridge gained reclassification as a shorthand-typist with a salary loading of £50 per annum; in 1919 she was appointed to a clerical position, only recently opened to women, in the new Department of Local Government, on a salary of £225. That year, with other women activists, she formed the women's clerical sub-section of the P.S.A., of which she was secretary (1923-29) and president (1929-31, 1932-39 and 1940-45).

A major figure in the P.S.A. campaign for implementation of equal pay for equal work for women clerical officers under the Industrial Arbitration (Amendment) Act (1926), Beveridge continued to campaign with her colleagues for the broad issue and to press specific cases before the Public Service Board. She put a case for improved rates of pay for temporary shorthand-typists, but had only limited success. Although handicapped by the reduction of public service salaries during the Depression, she collected evidence for the P.S.A.'s basic-wage committee and helped to co-ordinate the work of women's representatives on its other committees.

In October 1937 women denounced as 'hollow mockery' the Industrial Arbitration (Amendment) Act which raised the basic public service salary of males to £3 16s. 0d. per week, but in practice reduced that of female clerks by two shillings to £2 1s. 0d. Members of the women's clerical sub-section of the P.S.A. compiled dossiers on claims for discontinuation of the percentage formula in favour of setting a female rate based on the needs of an adult woman. They provided additional evidence to that being amassed by Muriel Heagney for the Council of Action for Equal Pay.

An 'indefatigable' stalwart, Beveridge was a member of the P.S.A. council, and of its management and arbitration committees. She inspired many other working women to become involved in the postwar phase of the campaign. In 1948 she ceased her active role in the P.S.A. Awarded a Queen Elizabeth II coronation medal in 1953, she retired in 1958 from the Department of Local Government where she had remained a clerk and long-time secretary of the building regulation advisory committee. Unmarried, she lived with her mother (d.1951) in a flat at Cremorne. In 1961 Dorothy visited Rhodesia with the Business and Professional Women's Club of Sydney; that year she was appointed M.B.E. A devout Presbyterian, she took an interest in the ordination of women and the revision of the hymn-book, and was superintendent of the Mosman Kirk's Sunday School. She died on 24 November 1978 at Mosman and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Deacon, Managing Gender (Melb, 1989)
  • Red Tape, Dec 1929, June 1930, May 1932, Mar 1940, Feb 1945.

Citation details

Louise Chappell and Lenore Coltheart, 'Beveridge, Dorothy Christina (1894–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/beveridge-dorothy-christina-9502/text16725, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018