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Quarrell, Lois Gertrude (1914–1991)

by P. A. Howell

This article was published online in 2014

Lois Gertrude Quarrell (1914-1991), journalist and sports administrator, was born on 19 November 1914 at Corryton, South Australia, second of five children of South Australian-born parents Alfred James Quarrell, glass artist, and his wife Lottie May, née Overington. Educated at Adelaide Technical High School, Lois played hockey and cricket, and captained the senior basketball team. In 1932 she became a typist in the commercial department of Adelaide’s Advertiser. She took up swimming and life saving, and began writing a weekly column on the latter. Given the chance of a cadetship, she created a women’s sports page—‘Women in Sport, by Lois Quarrell’—which first appeared in May 1936.

Besides reporting results, Quarrell strove to educate the public about the value of sports for girls and women. She urged all to participate and contradicted men who claimed strenuous sports robbed women of their femininity and were injurious to their health. She advocated ‘rational attire,’ particularly the shortening of skirts for many sports, and calmed anxieties about female athletes in shorts. She never ceased praising the achievements of local champions so that the public, instead of being ‘mildly amused and tolerant’ of their efforts, would be ‘impressed by the high standard of play’ (Daly 1994, 25).

Quarrell was also active in sports administration. While serving as the playing coach of the Westbourne Park hockey team, she formed the South Australian Women’s Amateur Swimming Association in 1938 and was its secretary for eleven years. In 1940 she became the first woman appointed to the National Fitness Council of South Australia, persuading it to establish facilities for new women’s sports, including softball, and to open additional children’s playgrounds. In 1941 she encouraged the formation of a South Australian Women’s Amateur Athletics Association. She was a selector for, and the manager of, touring State swimming and basketball teams, until she moved into hockey administration in 1947.

During World War II Quarrell undertook the extra tasks of general reporting and the reviewing of films and stage shows. She wrote columns answering readers’ queries about air-raid precautions. When men’s sporting contests resumed in 1945, she continued to report on them until male journalists returned from war service. Management valued her skill in writing: throughout her career she was ‘punctilious and prompt,’ and the accuracy of her reports ‘was never queried or questioned’ (Scales 2013). From 1946 until 1949 she conducted a session on women’s sport every Saturday morning on the Advertiser’s radio station, 5AD.

Quarrell had joined the Girl Guides in 1925. Inaugural captain (1932-43) of the 1st Westbourne Park Company, she became divisional secretary and later a district commissioner. During the war she headed the signalling division of the State division of the Guides’ National Emergency Squad. Always given to intense self-scrutiny, she joined Moral Re-Armament and resigned from the Advertiser in June 1949 to undertake voluntary work for that movement in Melbourne and New Zealand.

Resuming her position as the Advertiser’s ‘Women’s Sports Editress’ in 1953, Quarrell encouraged women to resist pressures for them to give up sport after marrying and becoming mothers. A member of the Parkside Bowling Club, she became skipper of the Adelaide No. 2 side and took Thursday mornings off to play golf. She helped May Mills form the South Australian Women’s Amateur Sports Council, which secured a lease in 1953 for the Women’s Memorial Playing Fields at St Marys.

On 17 March 1960 at Hamilton Park Methodist Church, Quarrell married John Nicholas Hendry, a brush maker and president of the Blind Workers’ Association. She continued to use her maiden name except in Moral Re-Armament and church circles. In 1966 she founded the South Australian division of the Sportswomen’s Association of Australia, serving as its chairman and securing sponsorships to fund premises, prizes, and trophies. In 1970 she resigned from the Advertiser’s full-time staff to become a casual reporter, confining her journalism to women’s and men’s golf, croquet, and lawn bowls. Retiring in 1977, she became active in the (Pentecostal) Christian Revival Crusade congregation in Brighton. Predeceased by her husband, she died in Royal Adelaide Hospital on 19 June 1991 and was cremated. She had done much to improve the general health and self-esteem of South Australia’s women.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Advertiser (Adelaide). ‘Lois Quarrell Leaving Adelaide,’ 20 May 1949, 9
  • ‘After a Lifetime Lois Sees Light Down the Tunnel,’ 1 August 1986, 17
  • ‘Lifted the Profile of Women’s Sport,’ 22 June 1991, 30
  • Advertiser PI (Adelaide). ‘Signs Off, But Will Return.’ March-April 1970, 3
  • Daly, John A. Feminae Ludens: Women’s Competitive Sport in South Australia, 1936-1956. Adelaide: J. A. Daly, 1994
  • Girl Guides South Australia Archives, Norwood
  • Howell, P.A. 'Lois Quarrell: a notable mid-20th-century journalist and her impact'. JHSSA, No. 42, 2014, 29-42
  • Scales, John. Personal communication, 29 May 2013
  •  State Library of South Australia. PRG 1016. Quarrell, Lois (1915-91).

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Citation details

P. A. Howell, 'Quarrell, Lois Gertrude (1914–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/quarrell-lois-gertrude-16749/text28645, published online 2014, accessed online 27 June 2019.

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