Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Taylor, Beatrice Mary (1893–1982)

by Martin Sullivan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Beatrice Mary Taylor (1893-1982), schoolteacher, was born on 17 April 1893 at Adelong, New South Wales, ninth of ten surviving children of English-born Hezekiah Taylor, miner, and his wife Annie Maria, née Fardon, born in New South Wales. Aged 17 when she began teaching in the infants section of Parramatta District School in 1911, Bea then had a few years of country service, including Pitt Town and Galston public schools. She was transferred in 1916 to Paddington Public School, Sydney, where she taught for nineteen years.

In 1919 Taylor joined the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation and the next year one of its sectional associations, the Assistant Teachers’ Association. She served (1921-33) as one of four vice-presidents of the association and as a delegate to the council of the federation. In 1929 she was elected senior vice-president of the federation; her eloquence, particularly in speeches about equal pay, made her ‘a powerful force at annual conferences of the federation’. Dissatisfaction resulting from poor pay, the dismissal of married women and a perceived weak response by the teachers’ federation, led to the foundation in 1931 of the Educational Workers’ League, with Sam Lewis as secretary. Founding members included Taylor, Lewis Rodd and ‘Hettie’ Ross.

In March 1932 Taylor, sponsored by the EWL, joined a tour of the Soviet Union organised by Friends of the Soviet Union. She returned to Sydney in September and in November gave a public lecture on social and educational conditions in the Soviet Union. When the Department of Education asked her to justify her address she refused, arguing that her civil rights as a private citizen would be impugned. She was suspended for misconduct and wilful disobedience. A Beatrice Taylor defence committee was established with Sam Lewis as secretary. He and an EWL stalwart, Jim Starling, organised a conference of trade unionists and other activists. Five hundred people attended, supported Taylor’s reinstatement and urged parents at Paddington Public School to protest by keeping their children home on the first day of school for 1933. A week later people packed the Sydney Town Hall to hear various speakers defend the civil rights of public servants. On 31 January, when Paddington Public School reopened, protesters and police were present but children attended school without incident. Clive Evatt defended Taylor at the Public Service Board’s inquiry and she was reinstated in early February.

After a promotion Taylor taught at Newcastle (1936-38) and Orange (1938-41). Back in Sydney, she worked at a number of schools, including, as her last, Bondi Beach Public School (1948-58). She remained on the federation’s council for some of this time. In 1982 she published Flashbacks to Adelong. She was described as ‘beautiful, intelligent, energetic’ and ‘of medium height, and stocky build’. In later years she was crippled with arthritis. Never married, Taylor lived at Rothesay Nursing Home, Rose Bay, from 1975. She died there on 15 November 1982 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Mitchell, Teachers, Education, and Politics (1975)
  • Education (Sydney), 3 Dec 1975, p 417
  • NSW Public School Teachers’ Federation records (ANU archives).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Martin Sullivan, 'Taylor, Beatrice Mary (1893–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-beatrice-mary-15677/text26875, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 22 April 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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