Australian Dictionary of Biography

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

Jowett, Edmund (1858–1936)

by Joan Rydon

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

Edmund Jowett (1858-1936), by Lafayette

Edmund Jowett (1858-1936), by Lafayette

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23438902

Edmund Jowett (1858-1936), pastoralist, businessman and politician, was born on 6 January 1858 at Bradford, Yorkshire, England, son of Joseph Jowett, stuffmaker in a woollen mill, and his wife Sarah, née Craven. Edmund was educated at Mr James Ward's Classical School, Clapham Common, London, and learned the wool trade at his uncle's mill at Thornton, Yorkshire. With his elder brother Charles he followed his father to Australia in 1876 and settled in Melbourne, working on the Argus, contributing articles to the Australasian Banking Record and becoming the wool expert of the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd. On 24 November 1883 at St George's Presbyterian Church, East St Kilda, he married Annette Rose McCallum.

Though he had arrived in Australia without capital, Jowett gradually acquired pastoral properties (mainly in Queensland, where he began with Kynuna station about 1886, but a few in New South Wales and Victoria) until he controlled over forty, covering more than six million acres (2,428,140 ha). He greatly increased the carrying capacity of his sheep-stations and specialized in developing unimproved properties. At his death he was credited by the Bulletin with having owned more sheep than anyone else in the world. Jowett also promoted woollen-manufacturing, instituted 'Wool Week', and headed a 'Use More Wool' committee. A well-dressed man, he boasted that he always wore woollen suits made in Australia. In 1916 he was appointed growers' representative on the wartime Central Wool Committee and subsequently served in a similar capacity on the Commonwealth Bureau of Commerce and Industry and on the Victorian Meat Advisory Committee.

As a young man Jowett came under the influence of Sir Frederick Sargood and was a member of the Young Victorian Patriotic League. He seems to have taken no active part in politics until October 1916 when he campaigned on the Darling Downs for conscription; his younger son, of the Royal Flying Corps, had been killed in action in July. On the formation of the National Party in January 1917 Jowett became Victorian vice-president. Unsuccessful at the Federal election in May as a 'win the war' candidate for Maribyrnong, in October he won Grampians at a by-election. In 1919 he was re-elected with the endorsement of the Victorian Farmers' Union and, on 25 February 1920, was chosen as deputy leader of the new parliamentary Country Party. In 1922 when a redistribution abolished his seat he unsuccessfully contested Bendigo. 'A wiry-looking man' with a penetrating glance and a square jaw, he was an active member of the Country Party for the remainder of his life.

Jowett frequently wrote and lectured on economic questions. Before the turn of the century he argued against the gold standard and in later years strongly opposed any return to it. In and out of parliament he advocated electoral reform and proportional representation, particularly for Senate elections. He also worked to encourage Britons to settle on the land in Australia. He was Australian president of the British Immigration League from 1916 and representative in Australia of the Royal Colonial Institute. His publications included The Unnatural Fall in Prices Due to Currency Legislation (1895), The Ruinous Fall in the Prices of Produce and the Prevailing Scarcity of Money (1894), Electoral Reform for Australia (1917) and Proportional Representation for the Senate (1919). He was a director of several companies, including the Norwich Union Insurance Society, and a member of the advisory board of Australian Estates and Mortgage Co. He belonged to the Melbourne, Australian and Queensland clubs and enjoyed tennis, polo, ballroom dancing and poetry.

Jowett died suddenly on 14 April 1936 at Strathane, one of his Queensland properties, and was buried in the Presbyterian section of St Kilda cemetery, Melbourne. His wife, a son and three daughters, one of whom was daughter-in-law to Sir George Fairbairn, survived him. His estate was valued for probate at £56,399. The Argus obituary described him as not only a grazier but a 'politician, economist, writer, sportsman and wit'.

Select Bibliography

  • E. J. Brady, Australia Unlimited (Melb, 1918)
  • Punch (Melbourne), 19 Apr 1917, 27 May 1920
  • Farmers' Advocate, 20 Nov 1919
  • Argus (Melbourne), 15 Apr 1936
  • Countryman (Melbourne), 17 Apr 1936
  • Bulletin, 22 Apr 1936
  • Kyneton Guardian, 29 Nov 1956
  • Australian Financial Review, 14 Dec 1981
  • private information.

Citation details

Joan Rydon, 'Jowett, Edmund (1858–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jowett-edmund-6887/text11939, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 21 November 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014