Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jordan, Ellen Violet (Vi) (1913–1982)

by Patricia Fallon

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Ellen Violet (Vi) Jordan (1913-1982), politician, was born on 29 June 1913 at Ipswich, Queensland, eldest of three children of English-born James Bertie Norman Perrett, a railway fitter, and his Queensland-born wife Ann Jane, née Brown. Educated at Brassall State and Ipswich Girls’ Grammar schools, Vi won, but did not take up, a scholarship to attend the Teachers’ Training College in Brisbane. An accomplished musician, she had become an associate of the London College of Music and of the Trinity College of Music, London. Headstrong and determined, at 18 she married David Jordan, a railway porter, on 14 May 1932 at St Thomas’s Church of England, North Ipswich. A member of one of Ipswich’s brass bands, David shared her love of music.

At the beginning of World War II Vi Jordan was fiercely opposed to conscription and Australian support for the British at war. Nevertheless she became secretary of the first aid and air raid precautions committee and president of the Ipswich civilian welfare committee for service women at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley. She also devoted time to a servicewomen’s hostel at Ipswich.

When the Soviet Union became a wartime ally, Jordan joined the Australian Friends of the Soviet Union; as a result her knowledge of Marxist philosophy developed. From a family steeped in the trade union movement, Jordan believed that the militant attitude of some communist unions was detrimental to the workers but she remained sympathetic to the philosophy of the Communist Party of Australia. Affected by the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia and Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies’ attempt in 1950-51 to have the Communist Party declared illegal, Jordan burnt all her relevant books and papers and severed her connections with the Friends of the Soviet Union.

A member of the Australian Labor Party from the late 1940s, at the time of the split in Queensland Labor in 1957 Jordan remained staunchly loyal to the ALP: she was president (1956-67) of the Labor women’s central organising committee, secretary (1958-65) of the Somerset executive committee and secretary of both the Somerset and Ipswich West ladies’ branches. At the Labor-in-Politics Convention in Brisbane in 1960, she moved a successful resolution that women be allowed direct representation on the Queensland central executive. She was chosen as that representative and thus became the first woman other than a union delegate on the executive. In 1961 she was the first woman elected to the Ipswich City Council; she held this position until 1967. She was a delegate to conferences of the Local Government Association of Queensland.

The ALP chose Jordan as their candidate for the State seat of Ipswich West for the 1966 election. Under the campaign leadership of Bill Hayden, she defeated Jim Finimore, who had been the mayor of Ipswich for seventeen years. Serving for three terms, during which the ALP was in opposition, Jordan engaged in the struggle for the rights of the working class and for political, economic and social equality for women. In 1966 she spoke in parliament in a grievance session advocating equal pay for women. She was re-elected in 1969 and 1972 but defeated in 1974. In the lead-up to the 1977 election Jordan won the ALP plebiscite for Ipswich West but a redistribution changed the boundaries of her electorate and the QCE, deciding to appoint candidates centrally, did not choose her.

Jordan was president (1974-76) of the federal women’s executive of the ALP. In 1975 she was made a member of the Council of Queensland Women, set up to advise the State government on the status of women. She was appointed AM in 1976 and next year awarded the Queen’s jubilee medal. A keen lawn-bowler, she served on the committee of the North Ipswich Bowling Club. Predeceased (1967) by her husband and survived by her son, she died of myocardial infarction on 7 May 1982 at Ipswich and was buried in the city’s general cemetery. She was praised for her `ability to always keep Ipswich on the Map’ and will be remembered as the first woman from the ALP, and only the second of any political persuasion, to become a member of the Queensland parliament.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Reynolds, The Last Bastion (1995)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 4 Aug 1982, p 11
  • Refractory Girl, no 4, 1973, p 13
  • Queensland Review, vol 12, no 2, 2005, p 63
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 9 Aug 1977, p 1, 10 May 1982, p 25
  • Queensland Times, 30 June 1980, p 7, 8 May 1982, p 2, 7 Nov 1991, p 18
  • private information.

Citation details

Patricia Fallon, 'Jordan, Ellen Violet (Vi) (1913–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jordan-ellen-violet-vi-12708/text22913, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 23 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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