Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charlotte Mary Clarina (Lottie) Leal (1881–1961)

by Helen Jones

This article was published:

Charlotte Mary Clarina (Lottie) Leal (1881-1961), community worker, was born on 20 June 1881 at Clare, South Australia, second of five daughters of John Harry, schoolteacher, and his wife Kate, née Hancock. Raised in her parents' Methodist faith, Lottie was educated at public schools in Clare and Gawler, and at the Advanced School for Girls, Adelaide. She studied painting under Rose McPherson (Margaret Preston) and became an associate of the (Royal) South Australian Society of Arts on exhibiting 'Roses' in its 1903 federal exhibition. After McPherson went abroad next year, Lottie took over her studio in Gilbert Place and taught drawing, painting and outdoor sketching. On 6 July 1911 at the Methodist Church, Archer Street, North Adelaide, she married James Leonard Leal, a stationer from England; they were to have five children.

The employment of a resident housekeeper enabled Mrs Leal to embark on voluntary public service and to use her debating skills; her husband also participated in civic affairs, serving as mayor (1919-22) of Thebarton. In June 1921 Mrs Leal formed the Thebarton Women's Service Association to develop philanthropic and educational activities in the town. She was its president in 1921-33 and later vice-president. Its members raised funds, distributed relief to 'distress cases', especially during the Depression, and supported municipal projects. As 'mother' of the first and twelve subsequent metropolitan associations, Leal kept them in touch and espoused their causes. Foundation president (1921-33) of the Thebarton School for Mothers Institute and Baby Health Centre, she led T.W.S.A. efforts to buy a motorcar in 1930 for the centre's nurse. She was a committee-member (1921-39) of the District Trained Nursing Society's Thebarton branch, a member (1922-28) of the executive-committee of the Minda Home for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, and founding president (1923) of the Thebarton Girl Guide Company.

A T.W.S.A. delegate to the National Council of Women of South Australia, Leal began an exacting role in the council's activities: she was an executive-member (1923-29), president (1929-34 and 1940-41) and life vice-president (from 1937). With particular concern for country families, she headed the N.C.W. through the worst years of the Depression and represented it on the Local Industries Promotion Council in 1930-35. She and Jean Bonython were the only women members in 1934-35 on the executive-committee for the State's centenary celebrations to which Leal submitted N.C.W. proposals. As vice-president of the Women's Centenary Council of South Australia, she worked closely with Adelaide Miethke. In 1936 Leal was appointed M.B.E. Two years later she joined a committee of inquiry into the situation of delinquent children and other wards of the state; its report (1939) was humane and thoroughly researched.

Leal's 'devout and generous work' helped the Methodist Church, both at the suburban level and through the Women's Home Mission League. In addition, she assisted the Resthaven Home for Lonely Women and in 1938 founded and presided over the Brighton (later Kate Cocks) Babies' Home Aid. Survived by a son and two daughters, she died on 13 August 1961 at Woodville and was cremated. The Charlotte Leal chapel (1967) at the Kate Cocks Babies' Home commemorated her.

Select Bibliography

  • Thebarton Women's Service Assn, Constitution and By-Laws (Adel, 1930) and minutes, 1923-58 (privately held)
  • National Council of Women of South Australia, Annual Report, 1921-37 (State Library of South Australia)
  • Methodist Church, Women's Home Mission League of South Australia, committee minutes, 1937-48 (State Library of South Australia)
  • State Centenary Celebrations Executive Committee (South Australia), minutes, 1932-35 (State Records of South Australia)
  • South Australian Methodist, 15 Sept 1961
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Helen Jones, 'Leal, Charlotte Mary Clarina (Lottie) (1881–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Harry, Charlotte

20 June, 1881
Clare, South Australia, Australia


13 August, 1961 (aged 80)
Woodville, Adelaide, South Australia, 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.