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Eleanor Mary Hinder (1893–1963)

by Meredith Foley and Heather Radi

This article was published:

Eleanor Mary Hinder (1893-1963), welfare officer and international public servant, was born on 19 January 1893 at East Maitland, New South Wales, third daughter of Australian-born parents Robert John Hinder, headmaster, and his wife Sarah Florence, née Mills. Educated at Maitland West Girls' High School, Teachers' College and the University of Sydney (B.Sc., 1914), she taught biology at North Sydney Girls' High School and gave extension tutorials at the university, where her uncles Henry Hinder and Arthur Mills filled chairs in surgery and medicine. She held office in the Student Christian Movement, the Sydney University Women Graduates' Association and the Workers' Educational Association Club.

In 1919 Hinder became welfare superintendent at Farmer & Co. Ltd's department store, one of the first such appointments by an Australian firm. She monitored training and placements and women employees' health, formed a social club and encouraged participation in healthy recreation. With Jean Stevenson of the Young Women's Christian Association, Hinder helped to found the City Girls Amateur Sports Association. Her aim was to promote loyalty of employees to the firm.

Through her Y.W.C.A. connexions her work became known internationally. When Farmer's financed an overseas study tour for her in 1923-24, Eleanor Hinder went first to Shanghai, China, which recently had experienced serious industrial troubles, on the personal invitation of the international industrial secretary of the Y.W.C.A., Mary Dingman, who thought her 'the most intelligent and ablest young woman met in Australia'. Hinder went on to the International Labour Organization, Geneva, and the International Federation of University Women's congress at Oslo. In 1926 she returned to Shanghai to work for the National Y.W.C.A. of China. Because of the extraterritorial rights of Europeans under the unequal treaties, China's labour laws could not be enforced in Shanghai where the British-dominated municipal council resisted regulation of labour. Hinder became a publicist for regulation. She met Viola Smith, the American assistant trade commissioner, and they became intimate friends for life.

In 1928 Miss Hinder attended the first Pan Pacific Women's Conference in Honolulu. On a visit home she lectured on China. In 1929 she was an Australian delegate to the third conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations at Kyoto, Japan, then resumed her work with the Y.W.C.A. in Shanghai. After visiting the United States of America and Europe in 1932, where she studied in England at the Home Office's industrial safety museum and with the I.L.O., she was appointed chief of Shanghai municipality's new (social and) industrial division. The council's continued refusal of China's labour laws left Hinder without power to control working conditions except by disseminating information about industrial health and safety and by providing training for workers. She was within a few blocks of Japanese bombs in 1937 and, as the war extended, the care of orphans became an important part of the work of her division. In August 1942 she was repatriated to London and joined the Foreign Office, and in December was sent to Montreal, Canada, to work for the I.L.O.

In 1944-48 Hinder was British representative on the Far Eastern sub-committee of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association's technical committee. Appointed O.B.E. in 1950, she was British representative on the United Nations' Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East until 1951, when she resigned from the Foreign Office to become chief of the project planning division of the Technical Assistance Administration of the United Nations, for Asia and the Far East. In 1953 she became chief of operations. Hinder retired in 1956; failing to come within the United States immigration quota, she and her friend Viola Smith came to Sydney to live.

Hinder took occasional assignments for the United Nations: en route to New York she died at San Francisco on 10 April 1963 of coronary occlusion. Her ashes were brought back for a memorial service at Wesley College, University of Sydney. Her collection of Chinese ceramics was displayed at the university and East Sydney Technical College before a selection was made for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Eleanor had drafted sections of an autobiography before her death. In 1976 Viola Smith bequeathed an award for a biography of her friend to be written.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Wheelhouse, Eleanor Mary Hinder, an Australian Woman's Social Welfare Work in China Between the Wars (Syd, 1978)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Apr 1963
  • Hinder papers (uncat MSS 770, State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Meredith Foley and Heather Radi, 'Hinder, Eleanor Mary (1893–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 14 June 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

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