Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lillie Elizabeth Goodisson (1860–1947)

by Meredith Foley

This article was published:

Lillie Elizabeth Goodisson (1860?-1947), racial hygienist, was born at Holyhead, Wales, daughter of John Richard Price, physician, and his wife Frances Elizabeth, née Roberts. She trained as a nurse and aged 19 married Lawford David Evans, physician, in London. They migrated to Auckland, New Zealand, where their two children were born in 1881 and 1883. Lillie Evans had moved to Melbourne by 1895 and about 1897 set up Myrnong private hospital at St Kilda. Widowed in 1903, in the early 1900s she went to Western Australia. At East Fremantle she married 33-year-old Albert Elliot Goodisson, business manager, on 11 June 1904. They lived at Geraldton until Albert Goodisson went to Batavia in September 1913 for 'health reasons'. Lillie visited him there, before he died on 4 February 1914, in the lunatic asylum where he had been committed for 'general paralysis' and derangement. Emotionally and financially bereft, Lillie, with the aid of a loan from her friend Ivy Brookes, returned to Melbourne.

During World War I she worked as a secretary for the women's division of the People's Liberal Party, the Empire Trade Defence Association and various patriotic causes. By 1919 she was also secretary of the women's section of the Australian Industries Protection League. Her finances remained a problem, and in 1921 Ivy Brookes again came to her aid, establishing her in a small library at Elwood, Melbourne. Mounting debts and ill health forced its liquidation in 1924.

In 1926 Lillie Goodisson moved to Sydney, where her daughter was living. With the Women's Reform League she founded the Racial Hygiene Association of New South Wales, to promote sex education, the prevention and eradication of venereal disease and the education of the public in eugenics. As general secretary she advocated the selective breeding of future generations for the elimination of hereditary disease and defects. With some vice-regal, political and clerical patronage she campaigned unsuccessfully for the segregation and sterilization of the mentally deficient and for the introduction of pre-marital health examinations. In 1933 the association established the first birth-control clinic in Sydney—it was for married women with hereditary, economic or health problems. In response to her critics, Goodisson maintained that judicious birth control would eradicate inheritable disease, diminish maternal mortality (by discouraging abortion) and result in an increased and healthier population.

A woman of unusual force of character, Lillie Goodisson in her seventies and eighties was still dedicated and active; she was also an outspoken executive member of the National Council of Women of New South Wales, the Travellers' Aid Society, the Good Film League of New South Wales, the Sydney Health Week and Mental Hygiene Council. For the last twenty years of her life her work and that of the Racial Hygiene Association were inseparable; a fellow-worker noted that 'she is the Society and without her there would be no Society'. She died on 10 January 1947 at Cremorne Point and was cremated. Her son and daughter survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • Progressive Journal (Sydney), 1 Aug, 5 Nov, 5 Dec 1935
  • National Council of Women (New South Wales), Biennial Report, 1921-34
  • Racial Hygiene Association of New South Wales, Annual Report, 1928-48
  • Bowyang, 6, 1981
  • West Australian, 5, 11 Feb 1914
  • Argus (Melbourne), 30 Apr 1915, 25 Jan 1918
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Jan 1935, 25 Nov 1937, 11 Jan 1947
  • Brookes papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Meredith Foley, 'Goodisson, Lillie Elizabeth (1860–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 13 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]

Alternative Names
  • Price, Lillie Elizabeth
  • Evans, Lillie Elizabeth

Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales


10 January, 1947 (aged ~ 87)
Cremorne, Sydney, New South Wales, 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.