Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Anne Patricia Dalgarno (1909–1980)

by Patricia Clarke

This article was published:

Anne Patricia Dalgarno (1909-1980), politician, community leader and nurse, was born on 6 July 1909 at Wrentham, Suffolk, England, daughter of Henry Patrick Smith, farmer, and his wife Mabel Christina, née Edwards. Cardinal Patrick Moran was Anne's great-uncle. Educated by governesses and at the Convent of the Holy Family, Littlehampton, Sussex, at the age of 16 she migrated to Western Australia with her parents and seven siblings. She trained at the Children's and Perth hospitals, becoming a registered nurse in 1933, then qualified in midwifery at the Women's Hospital, Crown Street, Sydney. On 1 June 1937 at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, she married a civil engineer Kenneth John Dalgarno. They had two children and moved to Canberra in 1948.

In 1954 Anne established the Nurses' Club (later the Nursing Service Agency) which provided nurses for patients in their own homes and for those needing special care in hospital. Believing that a mother's place is in the home as long as she is needed there, she was to run the service from her Red Hill residence until 1979. Mrs Dalgarno was a board-member (1954-59) of Canberra Community Hospital and president (1965-66) of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation. Standing as a Liberal (1958) and an Independent (1966), she unsuccessfully contested the seat of the A.C.T. in the House of Representatives.

In 1959 Dalgarno had been elected as an Independent to the A.C.T. Advisory Council; apart from a break of three years after her defeat at the 1967 polls, she remained a member until her retirement in 1974, and chaired the council's recreation and culture committee in 1970-74. The only female on the council, she urged women to seek election, declaring that they 'had ignored politics for too long'. She was prominent in the A.C.T. Debating Union which she represented in national championships. In 1974 she submitted a strongly-argued case against self-government to the Federal parliamentary joint committee on the A.C.T., advocating instead that a lord mayor was appropriate 'for the dignity and well being' of Australia's capital city.

Dalgarno devoted considerable time to counselling her constituents and to interceding with government or private bodies on their behalf. Having prepared a report for the council in 1965 on facilities needed for the Territory's youth, she presided (from 1972) over the Foundation for Youth Ltd which aimed to develop leisure activities for young people. She established the A.C.T. Emergency Housing Committee in 1973. The 'most active woman in public life in Canberra', she was at one time a member of twenty-two organizations. In 1977 she was appointed M.B.E.

Tall, slim, fair haired and blue eyed, she was a confident public speaker whose voice made clear her English upbringing. She upheld conventional Christian values and was an outspoken opponent of abortion. Mrs Dalgarno died of chronic asthma and its complications on 6 May 1980 at Royal Canberra Hospital and was buried in Canberra cemetery; her husband, son and daughter survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Lofthouse (compiler), Who's Who of Australian Women (Syd, 1982)
  • Canberra Times, 10 June 1965, 19 Mar 1966, 28 Aug 1970, 4 Oct 1972, 16 Nov 1974, 8 May 1980
  • Canberra Post, May 1968
  • Canberra News, 9 Sept 1970
  • Dalgarno papers (National Library of Australia)
  • biography clippings file (National Library of Australia)
  • Foundation for Youth Ltd papers (National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Patricia Clarke, 'Dalgarno, Anne Patricia (1909–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 14 June 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]

Alternative Names
  • Smith, Anne

6 July, 1909
Wrentham, Suffolk, England


6 May, 1980 (aged 70)
Acton, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.