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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Brown, Louisa Alice (1875–1959)

by Louise Chappell

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

Louisa Alice Brown (1875-1959), factory inspector, was born on 22 July 1875 in Adelaide, daughter of Henry Thomas Brown, carpenter, and his wife Catherine, née Toohill. After leaving school, Louisa worked as a clerk; she was later employed as a factory forewoman with responsibility for 'staffs of girls' that ranged from 30 to more than 60 in number. Moving to Sydney with her sister, in 1914 she was appointed an inspector responsible to the State minister for labour and industry.

On 15 December 1915 Brown became an inspector of factories and shops, an industrial inspector and an inspector (under the Early Closing Acts) in the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry. Her duties involved overseeing some of the largest factories in Sydney and every trade that employed women. She persistently negotiated with employers for improved conditions for female workers and encouraged them to provide additional benefits for their employees, such as dining-rooms and free medical and dental advice. Brown's reports also revealed her compassion for those families who found it necessary to send young girls and boys to work during the Depression. Rather than disallowing all girls under 14 from working, Louisa considered each application on its merit and—although 'reluctant to recommend such applications'—found that 'some scenes of poverty I witnessed seemed to justify it'. On other occasions she approached government departments to provide assistance.

Politically active outside her work, Brown had been secretary (1923-24) of the National Council of Women of New South Wales, vice-president (1929) of the Waverley women's branch of the National Association of New South Wales and a committee-member of the National Women's Club. On 1 June 1930 she was appointed senior woman inspector of factories and shops, a position previously held by Belle Golding, under whom she had worked. Brown retired in 1940. During World War II she took a job as an office assistant in the Department of Labour and Industry; her services were terminated on 31 July 1946.

Like other women who had long public service careers when the marriage bar was in force, Brown remained single. She continued to live with her sister at Waverley. Louisa died on 21 June 1959 at the War Memorial Hospital, Waverley, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Deacon, Managing Gender (Melb, 1989)
  • Dept of Labour and Industry, Report on the Working of the Factories and Shops Act, 1912, during the Years 1917, 1918, 1926, Parliamentary Papers (New Souh Wales), 1918, 1919, 1927.

Citation details

Louise Chappell, 'Brown, Louisa Alice (1875–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 25 September 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 13

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