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Isabella Theresa (Belle) Golding (1864–1940)

by Beverley Kingston

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Annie Mackenzie Golding

Annie Mackenzie Golding (1855-1934), feminist teacher, and Isabella Theresa Golding (1864-1940), public servant, were born at Tambaroora, New South Wales, on 27 October 1855 and 25 November 1864, eldest and third daughters of Joseph Golding (d.1890), gold-miner from Galway, Ireland, and his Scottish wife Ann (d.1906), née Fraser.

In 1874 Annie began teaching at Sallys Flat Provisional School, near Bathurst. Thereafter she slowly acquired training, qualifications and experience, first at Catholic schools at Paddington and Waverley, then at the Asylum for Destitute Children, Randwick, later at Esk Bank (Lithgow). In 1886 her family moved to Newcastle and she taught at New Lambton and Cooks Hill Public schools. Back in Sydney she taught at Macdonaldtown (Erskineville) and Croydon. She worked mainly with infants and girls. Although she often failed to obtain the promotions or qualifications she sought, by 1900 Annie Golding was mistress in charge at West Leichhardt (Orange Grove) Public School. She retired in 1915.

In the 1890s she became active in the new Teachers' Association of New South Wales. In 1897-1915 she was a member of the committee of the Public School Teachers' Institute and of the council of the New South Wales Public School Teachers' Association.

With their sister Kate Dwyer, Annie and Belle were members of the Womanhood Suffrage League of New South Wales from about 1893. Their branch at Newtown with Annie as secretary offered something of a working woman's challenge to Rose Scott's presidential view of the suffrage question from Woollahra; in 1902 the branch was expelled for its defiance of the central council. Thereafter the Golding sisters and some of their friends who were Labor supporters formed the Women's Progressive Association with Annie as president from 1904; small but persistent, it lobbied for women's equality before the law. She often organized or led deputations for equal pay, the removal of the sex barrier in employment and the appointment of women as justices of the peace and police officers.

Annie Golding kept female education and employment conditions before sections of the Labor Party and Catholic organizations. Her association responded to (Sir) Charles Mackellar's request for support for his reform of the child welfare law. She served as a member of the State Children Relief Board from May 1911 which led her eventually to concern for the welfare of Aboriginal children. She also supported the University of Sydney reforms introduced by the McGowen government in 1912.

Neither Annie nor Belle married. They shared a house in Annandale close to Kate and Michael Dwyer. Belle seems to have been less political than Annie—her life is even less documented, but she started work in the public schools. In May 1900 she became the first female inspector under the Early Closing Act of 1899. On 1 December 1913 she transferred to the inspectorate under the Factories and Shops Act as senior (women) inspector; she retired in 1926. Her reports reveal a passion for the health, welfare and just treatment of women in their employment. It seems likely that much of Annie's knowledge and understanding of employment conditions among women was in fact collected and passed on by Belle.

Annie Golding died on 28 December 1934, the day after she had slipped while alighting from a tram. She was buried in her mother's grave in the Catholic section of Waverley cemetery, after a service at St Brendan's Catholic Church, Annandale. Belle died on 11 December 1940 and was buried in the Catholic section of Waverley cemetery. Both sisters were practising Roman Catholics—hard-working, respectable and evidently lacking in frivolity. (Annie's recreations were 'reading, writing, lecturing'.) Their feminism was of an earnest, practical kind.

Select Bibliography

  • B. A. Mitchell, Teachers, Education, and Politics (Brisb, 1975)
  • J. Mackinolty and H. Radi (eds), In Pursuit of Justice (Syd, 1979)
  • Australian Worker, 5 Jan 1927
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Dec 1934
  • New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry, Annual Reports, 1900-26, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1900-04, and Parliamentary Papers (New South Wales), 1904-28
  • Register of teachers, Education Dept Archives (Sydney)
  • Scott family papers, v34 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Beverley Kingston, 'Golding, Isabella Theresa (Belle) (1864–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


25 November, 1864
Tambaroora, New South Wales, Australia


11 December, 1940 (aged 76)

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