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Maude Kathleen Deasey (1909–1968)

by Eileen Macintyre

This article was published:

Maude Kathleen Deasey (1909-1968), by unknown photographer, c1941

Maude Kathleen Deasey (1909-1968), by unknown photographer, c1941

Australian War Memorial, 012527

Maude Kathleen Deasey (1909-1968), teacher, army officer and administrator, was born on 26 May 1909 at Collingwood, Melbourne, second of six children of Rev. Denis Murrell Deasey, an Anglican clergyman, and his wife Maude Williamson, née Watt, both Victorian born. Educated at Geelong Church of England Girls' Grammar School and the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1931; M.A., 1933; Dip.Ed., 1935), Kathleen proceeded in 1935 to Newnham College, Cambridge (B.A., 1937; M.A., 1946), and graduated in the theological tripos. She visited Poland for a conference of the International Federation of University Women and made two tours of the Continent with the National Union of Students.

Back in Australia, Miss Deasey taught for a year at Frensham, Mittagong, New South Wales, then in 1940 became lady superintendent at Methodist Ladies' College, Melbourne. Following the formation of the Australian Women's Army Service in August 1941, she was recruited to be one of its officers. Appointed assistant-controller, A.W.A.S., Southern Command, in November, she received the rank of major on 28 January next year. She established the service's structure in Victoria and in 1942 supervised the enlistment and training of over five thousand recruits. From May 1943 she was assistant-controller at First Army headquarters, Toowoomba, Queensland.

Seconded to the Australian Army Chaplains' Department, Land Headquarters, Melbourne, in October, Deasey acted as adviser to the chaplains-general and ensured that servicewomen—wherever they were stationed—were able to maintain contact with their churches. She compiled a booklet, Readings and Prayers for Members of Army Women's Services, which the chaplains' department published in 1944. Her duties entailed considerable travel in Australia and the South-West Pacific Area. In 1946 she represented the A.W.A.S. in the Victory march in London. After returning to Australia, she drafted a history of the service. She transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 25 January 1947.

In the late 1940s Deasey helped to place migrant families for the Department of Immigration. She was in Europe in 1950-52 and studied at the Sorbonne, Paris, for a year. Home again, she administered an agency sponsorship scheme for the World Council of Churches to assist intending immigrants who had no friends or relations in Australia. In 1958-59 she travelled in the United States of America on a Ford Foundation grant and was a teaching fellow in the faculty of education, New York University. Having been a senior tutor in education at the University of Melbourne in 1960-61, she was principal of St Ann's College, University of Adelaide, until 1966. Next year she returned to Melbourne and joined the staff of Larnook Domestic Arts Teachers' College, Armadale.

Deasey was 5 ft 5 ins (165 cm) tall and slim in build, with blue-grey eyes; sincere, studious and determined, she loved music, and was gifted with sympathy, understanding and outward tranquillity. Her conversation was stimulating, she had a good sense of humour, made friends easily and was a dedicated Anglican. She died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 6 September 1968 at Prahran and was buried in Boroondara cemetery, Kew.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Ollif, Women in Khaki (Syd, 1981)
  • A. Howard, You'll be Sorry! (Syd, 1990)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 10 Sept 1968
  • private information.

Citation details

Eileen Macintyre, 'Deasey, Maude Kathleen (1909–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 17 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

Maude Kathleen Deasey (1909-1968), by unknown photographer, c1941

Maude Kathleen Deasey (1909-1968), by unknown photographer, c1941

Australian War Memorial, 012527

Life Summary [details]


26 May, 1909
Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


6 September, 1968 (aged 59)
Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.