Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bertha Beecroft (1906–1996)

by Bobbie Oliver and Matthew Cunneen

This article was published online in 2023

Bertha Beecroft (1906–1996), local government councillor and community worker, was born on 15 July 1906 in Perth, second of four children of English-born parents David Rosen, storekeeper, and his wife Amelia, née Goldstein. Her childhood was happy and productive, filled with twice-weekly music and Hebrew classes, in which she excelled. Displaying civic-mindedness and a philanthropic disposition from an early age, she assembled a relief parcel that was sent to an Australian soldier serving abroad during World War I. She was educated at James Street State School and from 1919 on an entrance scholarship at Perth Modern School, though she did not sit for the Leaving certificate. Instead she left for Melbourne to train as a milliner while engaging in tennis, basketball, and swimming; an expression of what would become a lifelong passion for sport. Returning to Perth, she found employment in the telephone section of the Postmaster-General’s Department, also being posted for short periods to other State capitals. She competed as a member of the Maccabean Soccer Club in Sydney (1929–30) and in 1930 acted as a delegate to the interstate conference of the Zionist Athletic Club. Her interests and talents extended to theatre and comedy; she both acted and produced. On 1 August 1936 she married Frederick Rowland Beecroft (d. 1969), a butcher, at Wesley Church, Perth. The couple had two sons, David Clement and Raymond Moon.

After her children started school, Beecroft became increasingly involved in civic and community life. She participated in the Kindergarten Union, Parents and Citizens’ Association, Pan-Pacific Women’s Association, and the Western Australian branch of the United Nations Association, and also sewed pyjamas each week for the women’s auxiliary of Princess Margaret Hospital for Children. Deciding on a career in local government, in 1954 she was elected to the Perth City Council as a councillor for the Leederville Ward, becoming the second woman to win election. She would hold the ward for nine years before being elected to the Coastal Ward (1963–84). One of her chief concerns was the inequality she perceived in rate standards, under which houses with more rooms paid higher rates, thereby disadvantaging larger families. She believed that women should have the right to be elected to local councils, purely on merit, thereby attaining opportunities to instigate change that would otherwise be infeasible outside politics. From 1955 she served two years as State president of the Women’s Liberal and Country League. During this period, she acted as the first female Federal delegate from Western Australia to the United Nations. In 1956 she stood at the State election for the Liberal and Country League in the electorate of Wembley Beaches but was narrowly defeated by the Labor candidate.

Outside her political career, Beecroft continued to engage in civic and philanthropic pursuits. In 1959 she was appointed a justice of the peace. She served on the boards of visitors of the Claremont Mental and Heathcote hospitals, the Mosman Park School for the Deaf, and the Lotteries Commission of Western Australia (1968–76). Assuming other leadership positions, she chaired the Endowment Lands committee of the city council (responsible for managing and developing land originally granted to Perth in 1902) and from 1978 was director of Aid to Useful Living, a society dedicated to assisting people living with a disability. She was the first woman to chair the Lotteries Commission (1975–76) and to be elected deputy lord mayor of Perth (1976–77). Her recreational interests in music, ballet, and various sports translated into holding many honorary positions. She simultaneously served on the boards of the Western Australian Opera Society (1976–81) and the State branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society, while also presiding over the Ladies Hockey Association (1976–79). Her other sporting positions included being a patron and member of the Reabold Tennis Club and the City Beach Bowling Club, as well as vice-patron of the Floreat Surf Life Saving Club, the City of Perth Surf Club and the Western Australian Surf Lifesaving Association. Her continued success in sports was marked by several trophies in tennis and surfing.

In acknowledgement of her dedication to public service and charity work, Beecroft was appointed MBE in 1972 and was awarded the Local Government medal in 1979 for twenty-five years’ service to the Perth City Council. Despite a persistent inner drive, early signs of dementia prompted her retirement five years later. That year she was also named an honorary freeman of the City of Perth. Throughout her time on the council, she had helped to establish sporting clubs, kindergartens and the Perth Concert Hall. Though her strong, no-nonsense personality was sometimes perceived as brash, close acquaintances knew her as a gentle, loving person who worked tirelessly for the welfare of others and the advancement of women. She died on 19 December 1996 and was buried in the Wesleyan section of the Karrakatta cemetery, Perth. Beecroft Park in the coastal suburb of City Beach, and Beecroft Street in Coombs, Australian Capital Territory, were named in her honour. Her achievements are also acknowledged in the Women’s Museum of Australia at Alice Springs.

Research edited by Matthew Cunneen

Select Bibliography

  • Black, David. Election Statistics: Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, 1890–1996. Perth: Western Australian Parliamentary History Project and Western Australian Electoral Commission, 1997
  • Cohen, Lysbeth. ‘Councillor’s Record 27 Years of Service.’ Australian Jewish Times (Sydney), 4 February 1982, 15. Daily News (Perth). ‘WA Rating Called Victimisation.’ 29 November 1954, 2
  • Duffy, John. ‘PCC Doyenne Dies.’ West Australian, 27 December 1996, 38
  • Sacks, Margaret A., ed. The Way 79 Who is Who: Synoptic Biographies of Western Australians. Nedlands, WA: Crawley Publishers, 1980
  • Women’s Museum of Australia and Old Gaol, Alice Springs. ‘Bertha Beecroft’ Accessed 23 February 2022. https://wmoa.com.au/herstory-archive/rosen-bertha-mbe-jp

Additional Resources

Citation details

Bobbie Oliver and Matthew Cunneen, 'Beecroft, Bertha (1906–1996)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/beecroft-bertha-32678/text40579, published online 2023, accessed online 25 May 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Bertha Beecroft, c.1955

Bertha Beecroft, c.1955

State Library of Western Australia, 67955417

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Rosen, Bertha
Birth

15 July, 1906
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Death

19 December, 1996 (aged 90)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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