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Weber, Ivy Lavinia (1892–1976)

by Geoff Browne

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Ivy Lavinia Weber (1892-1976), physical culturist and politician, was born on 7 June 1892 at Captains Flat, New South Wales, third child of John Filshie, schoolteacher, and his wife Elizabeth, née Seaman, both native-born. Educated at Dungog and raised as a Presbyterian, she worked in Sydney, possibly at Reuters newsagency, and on 11 December 1915 at the Sacred Heart presbytery, Mosman, married with Catholic rites Thomas Mitchell, a stock and station agent. He was killed in action in France in May 1917, leaving her with a baby son. Living with her parents in Melbourne, Ivy enrolled in the Weber and Rice Health and Strength College and on 7 March 1919 married its principal, Clarence Weber, a widower with seven young children—they were to have three of their own. Domestic help with the children allowed Ivy to run the women's classes at the college.

In 1930 Clarence Weber died suddenly. Ivy took a job with the Berlei Corset Co., lecturing on figure control. Subsequently she worked as an organizer for the United Country Party and for the Hospital Benefits Association. A woman of 'immense vitality', she gave radio talks on physical culture, served on the management committee of the Queen Victoria Hospital (1930-34) and by 1937 was an office-bearer of the Playgrounds Association and the Red Cross Society. She was president of the Local Option Alliance (1939-43) and of the Australian Temperance Council (1941-43). As an executive-member of the National Council of Women (1934-39), she played a leading part in the establishment of a physical education course at the University of Melbourne; she was also a member of the National Fitness Council in 1939-53.

In June 1937 the League of Women Electors had been formed to endorse women parliamentary candidates under the banner of 'Mother, Child, Family, Home and Health'. Ivy Weber was the league's president and its candidate for the Legislative Assembly seat of Nunawading at the 1937 State election. Standing as an Independent, she advocated free education and a national health scheme. Tall, 'very good-looking, with a pleasing voice and poise', she defeated the sitting member, becoming the second woman to be elected to the Victorian parliament and the first at a general election. In parliament she successfully argued for the appointment of a woman to the Housing Commission (1938). Re-elected twice, she resigned in 1943 to contest the Federal seat of Henty for the 'Women to Canberra' movement of which she was president. She polled fifth in a field of six; two years later she was decisively beaten when she stood for the State seat of Box Hill.

After leaving parliament, Mrs Weber held organizing jobs with the Department of Supply, the Country Party, the Australian Women's Movement Against Socialism and worked for the blind. Survived by her two sons and two daughters, she died at Camberwell on 6 March 1976 and was cremated. Ivy Weber believed that girls should put 'marriage and motherhood before any other career'; yet she also maintained that women should be active in public life. She managed to do both by 'working a tremendous lot of overtime'.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Lemon, Box Hill (Melb, 1978)
  • M. Bevege et al (eds), Worth Her Salt (Syd, 1982)
  • M. Sawer and M. Simms, A Woman's Place (Syd, 1984)
  • F. Kelly and M. Lake (eds), Double Time, Women in Victoria, 150 Years (Melb, 1985)
  • V. Davies, Ivy Lavinia Weber (unpublished biographical study, State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Geoff Browne, 'Weber, Ivy Lavinia (1892–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/weber-ivy-lavinia-9030/text15903, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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