Australian Dictionary of Biography

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

Greville, Henrietta (1861–1964)

by Mary Vinter

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Henrietta Greville (1861-1964), labour organizer, was born on 9 October 1861 at Dunedin, New Zealand, fourth child of Australian-born parents Henry Wyse and his wife Rebecca, née Hutchinson. Henry, son of ex-convict Isaac Wyse, had taken his wife and family to New Zealand in a vain search for gold. In 1866 they moved to Victoria, settling at Howlong, New South Wales, in 1868. Although with very little formal education, Henrietta at 17 was briefly a schoolteacher, and helped in her aunt's hotel at Albury, until she married John Collins, jeweller, at Albury Registry Office on 3 August 1881. The marriage failed and in 1889 she returned with her four children to her parents' farm at Temora. Her husband died later in Western Australia.

To support her family Henrietta worked as a seamstress, later establishing refreshment rooms in the town. Forced by the depression of the 1890s to close, she took her family to the goldfields at West Wyalong; she pegged out a claim, sold meals to the miners and helped to establish a branch of the Political Labor League.

Here at the registry office on 30 July 1894 she married Hector Greville, a miner and union organizer. A well-educated socialist, he supported her political activity, and the marriage was a very happy one. Lack of permanent work kept them moving through the mining districts of western New South Wales, Henrietta helping to support them by cooking and sewing. She became an organizer for the Australian Workers' Union; later she organized the Women Workers' Union and for some time acted as its delegate at the Trades and Labor Council. In 1902 the family spent some time in Sydney and Henrietta became part of the radical group centred around Bertha McNamara's bookshop in Castlereagh Street. In 1908 she became an organizer for the White Workers' Union and attacked the working conditions and wages of female shirt-makers. For many years she was an organizer for the Labor Party, a member of the Labor Women's Central Organising Committee and the Labor Women's Advisory Council. In 1916-17 she campaigned against conscription. As a Labor candidate she was defeated for the Federal seat of Wentworth in 1917 and the State seat of Vaucluse in 1927. From the mid-1920s she was closely associated with Marion Piddington and sex education.

In 1914 Henrietta had joined the first tutorial class of the Workers' Educational Association of New South Wales and studied economics for two years. She became branch secretary at Lithgow in 1918, a member of the executive in 1919 and the first woman president in 1920. She remained active in the association and when aged 94 directed a group of women studying sex hygiene.

Hector Greville died in Sydney in 1938, but Henrietta continued her political activities. In 1945 she became a life-member of the Union of Australian Women. In her later years she identified more with the Communist Party of Australia, managing one of its bookshops at Rockdale and helping on the Release Sharkey Committee. In the 1940s she also worked for the Rockdale branch of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners' Association. In January 1958 she was appointed M.B.E.

Henrietta Greville died in hospital at Lakemba on 29 August 1964 and was cremated without religious rites. She was survived by two sons and a daughter of her second marriage. Full of energy and vitality, her life was dedicated to making 'a better world … a world of peace'. Her work was commemorated when a block of pensioners' units was named after her in 1964.

Select Bibliography

  • Henrietta Greville: Veteran Labor Pioneer (Syd, 1958)
  • J. Tabberer, The Times of Henrietta (Syd, 1970)
  • Australian Highway, May 1920, Apr, June 1921, Feb 1924, May, Dec 1925
  • Australian Worker, 3 May, 19, 26 Apr 1917
  • West Wyalong Advocate, 6 Jan 1947
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Oct 1949, 6 Nov 1955, 1 Jan, 1 Oct 1958, 1 Oct 1961, 31 Aug, 1 Sept 1964
  • Workers Educational Association of New South Wales, Annual Report, 31 Dec 1917-23 (held at head office, Sydney).

Citation details

Mary Vinter, 'Greville, Henrietta (1861–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/greville-henrietta-6482/text11107, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014