Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Margaret Theadora Allan (1889–1968)

by Noeline J. Kyle

This article was published:

Margaret Theadora Allan (1889-1968), community worker, was born on 2 June 1889 at the Manse, Charters Towers, Queensland, third child of Rev. Alexander McWatt Allan, Presbyterian minister, and his second wife Margaret Jane, née Menzies, both Scottish born. McWatt was transferred to Brisbane about 1893 and to New South Wales in 1903; after several pastorates, in December 1908 he was appointed to Tweed Heads where he was killed in a sulky accident on 9 May 1909. His daughter Margaret was a secretary for the Young Women's Christian Association in Colombo before being employed in 1936 by the Travellers' Aid Society of New South Wales, which had been a branch of the Y.W.C.A. in Sydney since 1900. She was appointed secretary in 1938 when the society became a separate organization and opened a room at Central Railway Station.

Appointed organizing secretary in 1940, from the outset Miss Allan insisted on full control of the office, staff, policy decisions and financial arrangements. She steered the society through its early years of fund-raising and was the major force behind the welfare work which she directed from the travellers' aid rest-room at Central Station. She publicized the society through her talks, canvassed for large donations and negotiated with affiliated societies, among them the Country Women's Association, the National Council of Women and the Good Neighbour Council. Although supported by an executive of women volunteers and a small committee who applauded her energy, it was Margaret who made the decisions.

The major objective of the organization was to give aid and protection to travellers, especially to women and children; as the society came to encompass all travellers—irrespective of sex, age or background, and whether they went by aeroplane, ship or train—the work of Margaret Allan became more widely known and appreciated. In 1966 the T.A.S. provided accommodation for a total of 1762 women and children at the Lodge in Elizabeth Street (which it had purchased in 1952), many school children were met at Central Railway Station and employment was found for young women. From a staff of two who assisted 1147 travellers in 1938, the society had a staff of ten to assist 33,073 travellers in 1968.

At the T.A.S. annual meeting in 1963 the patron Lady Cutler paid tribute to Miss Allan for her long, loyal and cheerful service: her personality and dedication had made the society a success. Living in North Sydney, Margaret belonged to the Daughters of the Manse Association; for her services to the community, she was awarded the British Empire medal in January 1968. She died on 14 December that year in St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, and was cremated; her estate was sworn for probate at $14,792.

Select Bibliography

  • The Story of the Sydney Young Women's Christian Association (Syd, no date)
  • Travellers' Aid Society (New South Wales), Annual Meeting Reports, 1 July 1938-3 Sept 1968, and Committee Meeting Reports, 21 May 1936-5 May 1941, and Executive Minutes, 6 June 1941-13 Sept 1948 (Travellers' Aid Society rooms, Central Railway Station, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

Noeline J. Kyle, 'Allan, Margaret Theadora (1889–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 June, 1889
Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia


14 December, 1968 (aged 79)
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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