Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Moore, Eleanor May (1875–1949)

by Mimi Colligan and Malcolm Saunders

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Eleanor May Moore (1875-1949), pacifist, was born on 10 March 1875 at Lancefield, Victoria, daughter of William Ainsworth Moore, builder, and his wife Sarah Martha, née Prout. From a solidly middle-class background, Eleanor was educated in Melbourne at Hawksburn State School, Presbyterian Ladies' College, and Stott's Business College. She became a skilled stenographer and in 1897 was the second woman in Victoria to qualify as a court reporter, an occupation she could not pursue because of her sex. Her main employment on leaving school was as a Hansard reporter and as a secretary for eight years at Dalgety & Co. Ltd. She had some writing talent and later supplemented her inherited income with freelance reporting. Remaining single, she lived with her parents, and in 1905 travelled to Europe with her sister Alice.

Sceptical about religion, she joined Dr Charles Strong's Australian Church, mainly for its social welfare concerns. She was also active in the Try and City Newsboys' societies. Moore became involved in the peace movement in March 1915 when Dr Strong founded the Sisterhood of International Peace, of which she became international secretary. She was also an executive-member of the Australian Peace Alliance, which advocated a negotiated peace, and campaigned on the platform and in pamphlets against conscription in 1916 and 1917; for this she was expelled from the National Council of Women of Victoria. In May 1919 she was S.I.P. representative at the International Women's Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, where she met and was inspired by the veteran American peaceworker Jane Addams.

In 1920 the S.I.P. became the Australian section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the most enduring group in the Australian peace movement. Its objective was to educate the public about the causes and effects of war; it favoured persuasion over provocation and its activities were characterized by decorum, restraint and persistence. Moore was to be its secretary from 1928 and its motive force until her death. Much in demand as a speaker, she travelled around Australia for groups such as the Australian Union of Democratic Control for the Avoidance of War, the Peace Society in Sydney and the Melbourne section of the World Disarmament Movement. In 1928 and 1930 she represented the W.I.L.P.F. at the Pan Pacific Union Women's conferences in Honolulu, lecturing in New Zealand before returning home. In 1936-38 she toured Victoria and New South Wales speaking on 'Peoples of the Pacific' for the Country Women's Association. Meanwhile the relatively conservative W.I.L.P.F. had dissociated itself from the International Peace Campaign and the left-wing Movement Against War and Fascism.

Japan's aggression in China and the outbreak of World War II created new problems for Moore. Contrary to the policy of the head office of the W.I.L.P.F she vehemently opposed, mainly on humanitarian grounds, the idea of a general boycott of Japan. Moore and the Australian section remained 'absolute pacifists', and she was 'violently anti-communist' at a time when other pacifists tended to be pro-Russian.

Eleanor Moore was much admired as a calm, gentle, self-effacing woman who was an uncompromising pacifist. Old age and ill health did not lessen her activism; she spoke against the manufacture and use of atomic bombs shortly after Hiroshima, and over the next three years attended interstate conferences of the Federal Pacifist Council of Australia. Her semi-autobiographical The Quest for Peace was completed only a few months before her death at Toorak, Melbourne, on 1 October 1949.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Gibson, The People Stand Up (Melb, 1983)
  • H. Josephson (ed), Biographical Dictionary of Modern Peace Leaders (Connecticut, USA, 1985)
  • Peacemaker, Nov 1949
  • M. Colligan, Brothers and Sisters in Peace: The Peace Movement in Melbourne 1900-18 (B.A. Hons thesis, Monash University, 1973)
  • E. M. Moore papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • MS 9377, box 1723/4, no ii/89 (State Library of Victoria)
  • private information.

Citation details

Mimi Colligan and Malcolm Saunders, 'Moore, Eleanor May (1875–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moore-eleanor-may-7635/text13349, published in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 20 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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