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.

Dorothy Eleanor Dolling (1897–1967)

by Alison M. Dolling

This article was published:

Dorothy Eleanor Ethel Victoria Georgina Barber Dolling (1897-1967), community worker and journalist, was born on 9 June 1897 at Woodhaugh, Dunedin, New Zealand, only daughter and youngest child of Edgar Scott Clarke, produce merchant, and his wife Alice Jane, née Barber, both from Yorkshire, England. Educated at Otago Girls' High School on a scholarship and at the University of Otago (B.Sc., N.Z., 1918; M.Sc., 1919), Dorothy taught mathematics and physics at the University of Leeds, England, in 1920-21 before returning to Otago and studying advanced mathematics. On 13 February 1923 at St Paul's Anglican Church, Adelaide, she married a medical practitioner Charles Edward Dolling (d.1936); they shared a love of cricket and in 1928 he became an Australian Test selector.

In 1929-34 Mrs Dolling was treasurer of the South Australian Country Women's Association. She organized handicraft classes, tree-planting, bushfire and flood relief, a toy fund, a kiosk at the Adelaide Royal Show and holiday cottages at the seaside for country women. During the Depression she and her fellow workers visited many families in remote rural areas, distributing 10,000 blankets and other necessities. Accompanying her husband to Europe in 1934, she represented the C.W.A. on the executive-council of the Associated Country Women of the World. State secretary (1935-47), deputy State president (1947-50) and a life member (from 1945) of the C.W.A., Dolling drafted constitutions for the South Australian branch and the C.W.A. of Australia.

The Women's Centenary Council of South Australia, of which Dolling was a committee-member, raised money in 1936 to found a base of the Australian Aerial Medical service at Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and to establish the Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden on lawns adjacent to the Torrens Parade Ground, Adelaide. That year she returned to work. As 'Marian March' she edited the women's pages of the Advertiser and as 'Eleanor Barbour' its rural weekly, the Chronicle; she retired from the latter newspaper in 1966.

During World War II Dolling initiated a volunteer personnel register and organized five of the State's wartime committees. Among their numerous achievements, they sent twenty tons of soap to Britain and set up the All Service Library Fund which distributed books to servicemen. She was also an executive-member of the Allied Forces Information Bureau, an officer of the Women's Air Training Corps and chaired (from 1943) the central welfare committee of the Women's Land Army (South Australia). In 1944 she was appointed O.B.E. Two years later, to accommodate country people visiting their relations in Daw Park Repatriation Hospital, the C.W.A. bought a house and named it Dolling Court.

Interested in people and in their development through education, in 1948 Dolling began leadership schools for C.W.A. officers, an initiative later adopted by the Victorian branch. In addition to being the sole woman on the South Australian Documentary Films Committee, she was president of the State section of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, of the Adelaide University Graduates' Union and of the Bowden Free Kindergarten; she also served on the South Australian Broadcasting Advisory Committee and was a committee-member of St Margaret's Convalescent Hospital, Semaphore. She belonged to the Lyceum Club.

Dolling was noted for her exuberant energy, her industry and her ability to enthuse others; she won the devoted support of her colleagues, especially those in the country. She was without pretension and mixed easily with men and women from all walks of life. When she entered a room, everyone noticed her tall, commanding presence: her dark hair was usually offset by earrings, and she had observant, flashing eyes and a roguish smile. With a penchant for toques and broad-brimmed hats, she wore clothes with panache. Nothing defeated her and she allowed 'no regrets'. She enjoyed cooking, gardening and playing bridge. On outback camping trips she added to her photographic collection of native trees and to her knowledge of local history. Her fund of experience enriched the pages of the Chronicle.

Survived by her daughter and son, Dolling died of hypertensive heart disease on 27 June 1967 at Anaster Private Hospital, Parkside, and was cremated. One reader wrote: 'I have lost a friend, though I never met her'. Dolling's estate was sworn for probate in Victoria and South Australia at $64,521. Her son founded the Dorothy Dolling memorial trust to assist country women and their children to obtain further education. A portrait and a miniature are held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Britton et al, The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (Syd, 1961)
  • The First Fifty Years (Adel, 1979)
  • Greater Than Their Knowing (Adel, 1986)
  • South Australian Countrywoman, 30 June, 15 Dec 1967
  • Farmer and Grazier, 22 June 1972
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 12 June 1936, 27 June 1967
  • Otago Daily Times, 9 Jan 1948
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 6 July 1967, 24 Sept 1971
  • Dolling papers (CWA Headquarters, Adelaide).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Alison M. Dolling, 'Dolling, Dorothy Eleanor (1897–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Clarke, Dorothy Eleanor
  • March, Marian
  • Barbour, Eleanor

9 June, 1897
Woodhaugh, Dunedin, New Zealand


27 June, 1967 (aged 70)
Parkside, Adelaide, South Australia, 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.