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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daley, Henrietta Jessie Shaw (1890–1943)

by Kathleen Dermody

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

Henrietta Jessie Shaw Daley (1890-1943), community worker, was born on 17 May 1890 at Malvern, Melbourne, second daughter of Thomas Pryce Obbinson, real-estate agent, and his wife Rosa Phillis, née Caudwell, both Victorian born. Educated at Presbyterian Ladies' College, East Melbourne, and Rosbercon College, Brighton, Jessie studied science at the University of Melbourne. On 27 January 1917 at the Australian Church, Flinders Street, she married a public servant Charles Studdy Daley; they were to have five children.

In August 1926 the family moved from Caulfield to Canberra. Mrs Daley was soon prominent among the small band of women who were determined to improve life in the 'bush capital'. Joining the Canberra Society of Arts and Literature, she performed in a number of early productions, assisted backstage and served as wardrobe mistress. She became a member (later president) of the Canberra Golf Club Associates, was first president of the Canberra Ladies' Choir, belonged to the Canberra Women's Hockey Club and was active in school associations.

Although deeply saddened in 1930 by the death of her 6-year-old son, Daley continued her involvement in community life. That year she accepted the presidency of the local Girl Guides' association and in 1931-32 was district commissioner. From 1930 she had been vice-president of the Canberra Mothercraft Society. In March 1935 she was elected president, but immediately became embroiled in factional squabbles. Faced with staunch and bitter opposition over a staffing issue, she resigned and failed to be re-elected.

Undeterred, Daley turned her energies to the Young Women's Christian Association, putting her skills as a hostess, her competence as an organizer and her experience in sporting and cultural activities to good use. Her frequent 'at-homes' and card-afternoons provided a welcome for newcomers to the city and raised funds for charity. In 1937 she became vice-president of the Y.W.C.A.'s Canberra branch and a non-resident member of the national board. During World War II she was involved with the association's hospitality centre and 'Leave House' which helped to make the capital 'a home away from home' for service personnel.

In a further attempt to enhance life for Canberra families, Jessie used her influence in the Y.W.C.A. to form an Australian Capital Territory branch of the National Council of Women. On 4 July 1939 she was elected its founding president. Under her leadership the A.C.T. division brought representatives of community organizations and public-spirited individuals together, enabling them to co-ordinate their activities. In particular, the N.C.W. took up the cause of the Canberra Relief Society which assisted the needy.

A generous, strong-willed woman who worked tirelessly to promote the welfare of Canberra's citizens, Jessie still found time to be a steady helpmate to her husband. Survived by him, three daughters and a son, she died of cancer on 10 November 1943 at Mosman, Sydney, and was cremated with Christian Science forms.

Select Bibliography

  • Principal Women of the Empire, vol 1 (Lond, 1940)
  • Canberra Times, 2, 9, 10, 15-18 Apr 1935
  • Australian Capital Territory Local Association of Girl Guides, minutes (Girl Guides Hall, Manuka, Canberra)
  • Canberra Mothercraft Society, Annual Report, A1928/1, 680/23 Sec 1 and Annual General Meetings, A659, 1943/1/5/06 (National Archives of Australia)
  • National Council of Women, Australian Capital Territory Branch, executive minute book, Book 1, M121/1 vol 1 (National Archives of Australia)
  • YWCA of Canberra, minutes of meetings of Board of Directors, and minute book, 1941-47 and Annual Report, 1929-50 (YWCA Office, Canberra).

Citation details

Kathleen Dermody, 'Daley, Henrietta Jessie Shaw (1890–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 8 August 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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