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Muscio, Florence Mildred (1882–1964)

by Meredith Foley and Gillian Fulloon

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

Florence Mildred Muscio (1882-1964), feminist, was born on 28 April 1882 at Copeland, New South Wales, eldest daughter of English-born Charles Fry, telegraph master, and his native-born wife Jane, née McLennan. Known as Mildred, she was educated at the Sydney Girls' High School and the University of Sydney, graduating B.A. in 1901 with first-class honours in logic and mental philosophy and M.A. in 1905. Next year, with her sister Edith, she published Poems. She worked as a teacher while completing her studies, and was principal of the Brighton College for Girls, Manly, in 1906-12.

In England she taught at Crosby, Lancashire, before marrying Bernard Muscio on 31 March 1915. She shared her husband's interests, and his university posts allowed her to continue studying and enjoy the company of students and graduates. Back in Sydney permanently from 1922, she was president of the Sydney University Women Graduates' Association (1923-26) and the Sydney University Women's Union (1927-28), and later an executive-member of the Sydney University Settlement. After her husband's death in 1926 she helped to form the Institute of Industrial Psychology in Sydney, and lectured in psychology for the University Extension Board.

Mildred Muscio's association with the National Council of Women of New South Wales began in 1922 when she was invited to organize the Good Film League. She joined the council's executive and was president in 1927-38. She was also federal president in 1927-31 and led the Australian delegation to the Vienna conference of the International Council of Women in 1930. During the Depression she defended the right of women to employment and maintained that a separate women's movement was necessary. In 1931 she considered standing for the Federal Senate.

Mrs Muscio served on the Commonwealth royal commission on child endowment in 1927; the minority report she submitted with John Curtin called for the immediate introduction of a Federal child endowment scheme. In 1929 she was a founding member of the Board of Social Study and Training, which issued a certificate for professional training in social work, and when the two-year diploma course was taken over by the university in 1940 she continued on the supervisory board. She served on the government committee inquiring into the system of examinations and secondary education in 1933. Before the 1934 inquiry into the Child Welfare Department, she stressed the need for welfare officers trained in psychology and advocated the establishment of counselling clinics.

Among her many other activities, including writing and broadcasting, Mrs Muscio was president of the Lyceum Club and vice-president of the New South Wales Society for Crippled Children, and worked for the Racial Hygiene Association, the Australian Red Cross Society, the New South Wales Bush Nursing Association, the Australian Aerial Medical Services, the Council of Social Services, Travellers' Aid Society, theatrical groups and the sesquicentenary celebrations. Active in the local branch of the League of Nations Union, she was an alternate delegate at the league's general assembly at Geneva in 1937. A friend of Margaret Bailey, for many years she served on the council of Ascham School where her sister Eva was senior mathematics mistress in 1917-45.

Mildred Muscio was appointed O.B.E. in 1938. A gifted speaker, fluent and logical, she was admired for her organizing ability, generosity, impartiality and 'sympathetic spirit'. She died, childless, in hospital at Ryde on 17 August 1964 and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • National Council of Women (New South Wales), Biennial Report, 1933-34, 1936-38
  • Housewife (Sydney), Dec 1933
  • National Council of Women News, Oct 1964
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 22 Oct 1927
  • Queenslander, 3 Nov 1927
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Apr 1931, 3 July 1934, 11 June 1937, 9 June, 3 Dec 1938.

Citation details

Meredith Foley and Gillian Fulloon, 'Muscio, Florence Mildred (1882–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 28 October 2016.

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

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