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Cribb, Margaret Neville Bridson (1924–1993)

by B. J. Costar

This article was published online in 2017

Margaret Neville Bridson Cribb (1924–1993), political scientist and journalist, was born on 4 August 1924 at Wandal, Rockhampton, Queensland, only child of Queensland-born parents Edwin Neville Catt, fitter and later mechanical engineer, and his wife Doris Ethel, née Calder, a former teacher. From Rockhampton Girls’ Grammar School, Margaret went to Windsor State School, Brisbane, where in 1938 she came third in the State-wide scholarship examination. She attended Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School from 1938 to 1941 and the University of Queensland (BA Hons, 1965; MA, 1972), intermittently as a day or external student, between 1944 and 1971.

When first at university, Catt had taken an active part in student affairs. In 1946 she was president of the Women’s Club, a delegate to the annual council meeting of the National Union of Australian University Students, a vice-president of the University of Queensland Union, and the first female editor of its newspaper, Semper Floreat. Declaring the paper’s pages open to ‘all views on controversial subjects’ (29 March 1946, 3), she published challenging articles on international, national, and local affairs, as well as reports from sporting and other clubs and societies. When conservative students unsuccessfully attempted to censor the paper, she wrote a robust editorial, ‘Strangling “Semper”?’ (17 May 1946, 2), defending press freedom.

On 12 April 1947 at St Alban’s Chapel, The Southport School, Catt married Ivor Morris Bridson Cribb; he had served in the Australian Imperial Force in World War II and had presided over the university students’ union in 1946.  While he taught at the school, she resumed journalism as ‘part-owner, writer and manager’ (Magazine 1993, 17) of the South Coast Express (1949–51), a weekly newspaper for holiday-makers. The Cribbs returned to Brisbane in 1956. Ivor became the inaugural warden of International House at the University of Queensland in 1965. In the same year, having gained her undergraduate degree with first-class honours in government, Margaret joined the university’s staff as a tutor in politics. After completing her master’s thesis, on industrial militancy in the transport industry, she was appointed as a lecturer in 1972. She would be promoted to senior lecturer in 1975 and to associate professor in 1985.

Cribb was an enthusiastic and innovative teacher of Queensland politics and industrial relations, and supervisor of honours students. She initiated a requirement for third-year undergraduates to carry out industrial-relations fieldwork. Additionally, she hosted forums in which selected parliamentarians from the major parties gave presentations to students and answered questions. In her 1984 application for promotion, she wrote ‘I have concentrated much of my effort into honing my skills as a teacher’ (UQA S135). Nevertheless, she also carried out extensive research, including investigations into industrial democracy in Britain, Scandinavia, and West Germany (1976), and in Yugoslavia (1979). She co-edited two books and wrote twenty journal articles and book chapters. From 1972 to 1983 she contributed ‘Political Chronicle: Queensland’ to the Australian Journal of Politics and History, and she authored twelve entries, published between 1969 and 1996, in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

In addition to being a de facto deputy-warden of International House, Cribb served on a multitude of university committees until her retirement in 1987. Among other roles, she was a member (1973–86) and president (1978–82 and 1985) of the council of the Women’s College (honorary fellow 1992). She was active outside the university as a media commentator and lecturer to high schools and community organisations, and was a member (1978–93) and vice-chairman (1984) of the Library Board of Queensland. All political parties trusted her and sought her advice; the Queensland branch of the National Party of Australia commissioned her to report (1990) on its future direction after exposure of government corruption led to its landslide defeat in 1989.

Short of stature, Cribb was a vibrant person, who interacted effortlessly with everyone on campus, from the youngest student to the vice-chancellor. She was appointed AM in 1992 for services to education and women’s affairs. Contracting meningitis, she died on 12 August 1993 at Auchenflower, Brisbane, and, after an Anglican funeral, was cremated. Her husband and their daughter and son survived her. The university’s child-care centre was named in her honour (1994) and the school of political science and international studies established the annual Margaret Cribb memorial prize in 1995.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Magazine (Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School). `Obituary: Mrs Margaret Cribb.’ 1993, 17

  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject

  • Semper Floreat (University of Queensland). `To Contributors.’ 29 March 1946, 3

  • Semper Floreat (University of Queensland). ‘Strangling “Semper”?’ 17 May 1946, 2

  • University of Queensland Archives. UQA S135, Staff Files, Margaret Cribb. Extracts provided by UQ Archives held on the ADB file

Additional Resources

Citation details

B. J. Costar, 'Cribb, Margaret Neville Bridson (1924–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cribb-margaret-neville-bridson-23909/text32749, published online 2017, accessed online 19 December 2018.

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