Australian Dictionary of Biography

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West, Evelyn Maude (1888–1969)

by Jenny Hammett

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

Evelyn Maude West (1888-1969), accountant, shire secretary and community worker, was born on 14 September 1888 at Traralgon, Victoria, second of five children of Walter West, blacksmith, and his wife Susan, née Barrett, both Victorian born. Two of her siblings died in infancy. Educated locally, Eva passed the municipal clerk's examination in 1914. She briefly worked for the Shire of Poowong and Jeetho until 1915 when she joined the Country Roads Board, Melbourne. In 1918 she, Mary Humble and Irene Bourne were the first women to be admitted to the Incorporated Institute of Accountants, Victoria (Commonwealth Institute of Accountants from 1921, Australian Society of Accountants from 1952).

Miss West was employed by the Young Men's Christian Association and by Holmes & McCrindle, public accountants, before returning to Traralgon where she began her own practice as an accountant and auditor. Her father had been secretary (from 1907) of the Traralgon Shire Council. During the years that he was a member (1922-29) of the Legislative Assembly, Eva worked as the shire's assistant-secretary, with responsibility for day-to-day administration. Appointed acting-secretary in 1934, she was said to be 'one of [only] three women occupying important municipal positions in Victoria'.

In January 1935 West was confirmed in the post of shire secretary. She also became secretary of the Traralgon Waterworks Trust and later the Traralgon Sewerage Authority. While she was shire secretary, Traralgon's population increased and the shire's economy developed. The council undertook major infrastructure works, particularly when the Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd's Maryvale Mill commenced operations and most of its workers decided to live at Traralgon. West earned respect as an effective administrator. Her meticulous attention to the accounts won praise from the shire's auditors. In World War II she was the driving force behind the Traralgon Salvage Committee, which raised money for benevolent purposes. A testimonial letter from councillors on her retirement in 1946 described her as genial, obliging and courteous.

Devoted to the community and compassionate towards the needy, West held honorary positions on more than twenty associations and committees. She took a special interest in the education and advancement of young women: she founded a local company of the Girl Guides' Association, served on the council of St Anne's Church of England Girls' Grammar School, Sale, and sponsored a bursary to pay for the schooling of a clergyman's daughter. West and her two sisters cared for the illegitimate child of a single woman, and Eva met the cost of the girl's education at a boarding school. In 1958 Miss West was appointed M.B.E. A woman of presence and humility, she lived simply, sleeping on the verandah of the small, weatherboard home which she shared with her sisters. She died on 20 June 1969 at Traralgon and was buried with Anglican rites in the local cemetery. In her memory, the Traralgon Business and Professional Women's Club instituted an annual scholarship for a female student.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Hammett, 'Eva West (1888-1969)', in Five Gippsland Women (Churchill, Vic, 1991)
  • J. Hammett, 'Eva West: A Citizen in the Community' (copy held on ADB file), and for bibliography.

Citation details

Jenny Hammett, 'West, Evelyn Maude (1888–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/west-evelyn-maude-11999/text21517, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 24 August 2019.

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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