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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Propsting, Marjorie Gertrude Eleanor (1905–1972)

by Martha Sear

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Marjorie Gertrude Eleanor Propsting (1905-1972), librarian and mayor, was born on 25 November 1905 at Waverley, Sydney, eldest child of New South Wales-born parents Henry Thomas Albert Bowman, monumental mason, and his wife Sophia, née Farmilo. Leaving North Sydney Girls' High School, Marjorie studied part time at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1928) on an exhibition scholarship while training (from 1925) as a librarian at the Public Library of New South Wales. She was employed as a library-assistant at Teachers' College, Sydney (1927-33), and at the Public Library (1933-36). On 24 February 1934 at St Stephen's Anglican Church, Chatswood, she married Henry Sherwin Propsting (d.1968), an engineer; they were to have a son and daughter.

Involved in numerous local organizations, Mrs Propsting worked (1951-72) at the library of the Sydney Kindergarten Training (Teachers') College, Waverley. She had become associated with Lane Cove Municipal Council in 1947 when appointed a citizen member of its town-planning committee. In October 1949 she was elected an alderman for East Ward, an office she was to hold for twenty-two years. Deputy-mayor in 1960, she was elected mayor of Lane Cove in December 1963. While the press grappled with what to call the new civic leader, she suggested that 'Marj' or 'Mrs Propsting' would do. 'I'm against these high-sounding titles', she said, 'Can you imagine coming out of the butcher's shop and being called Your Worship?' Highlights of her period in office included the construction of the Lane Cove Lower Town Hall (now demolished), the foundation of the Lane Cove Homes for the Aged Association, the provision of a women's rest centre, and a visit to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in January 1965. A member of the council's finance and library committees, and a consumer representative on the New South Wales advisory bread industry committees (1965 and 1970), she helped to establish the Greenwich branch library, later named after her.

Propsting believed there should be more women in local government because they brought 'that necessary woman's point of view'. She was a founder (1952) of the Australian Local Government Women's Association, and president of both the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory branch (1952-72) and the national board (1966-70). Although she believed that the association was necessary because 'men have a closed clique on many things', she did not call herself a feminist. In her view, women 'can get things done if only they'll use gentle persistence instead of militancy'. She was active in the National Council of Women of New South Wales, the National Council of Women of Australia and the League of Women Voters, and was also a justice of the peace. A member of the New South Wales executive of the Liberal Party, she unsuccessfully stood for pre-selection in several State elections. In 1970 she was appointed M.B.E.

Survived by her children, Propsting died of myocardial infarction on 2 April 1972 in Macksville hospital and was cremated. An energetic citizen and a devoted mother, she was remembered as a 'calm, sincere and unaffected' woman characterized by 'quiet dignity'.

Select Bibliography

  • A. V. Smith, Women in Australian Parliaments and Local Governments, Past and Present (Canb, 1975)
  • Shire and Municipal Record, 28 Jan 1964, p 815
  • National Council of Women of Australia, Quarterly Bulletin, Mar/Apr 1972, p 4
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May, 30 Oct 1965, 4 Apr 1972
  • Propsting papers (Lane Cove Municipal Library)
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Sear, 'Propsting, Marjorie Gertrude Eleanor (1905–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 16 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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