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Emma Linda Palmer Littlejohn (1883–1949)

by Meredith Foley

This article was published:

Emma Linda Palmer Littlejohn (1883-1949), feminist, journalist and radio commentator, was born on 11 December 1883 at Double Bay, Sydney, fifth child of Richard Teece, actuary and later general manager of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, and his wife Helena, née Palmer; R. C. Teece was her brother. Educated at Ascham School, Darling Point, she became active in philanthropic work through membership of the Ascham Old Girls' Union. On 5 April 1907 at St John's Church of England, Darlinghurst, she married Albert Littlejohn, a merchant and son of a director of the A.M.P. Society.

By the 1920s Linda Littlejohn was the mother of four children and a well-respected figure in the Sydney women's movement. In 1926 she was an executive-member of the National Council of Women of New South Wales and the Feminist Club. Two years later she launched the League of Women Voters to support female candidates for public office and to press for feminist reforms. While she was president the league became a foundation affiliate of the United Associations of Women, formed to co-ordinate women's groups. She chaired an industrial peace meeting but was driven from the platform by the wives of striking timberworkers. She spoke frequently on eugenics, advocated uniform divorce laws, joined the Who's for Australia? League, helped to found the Racial Hygiene Association of New South Wales and was appointed to the Board of Health in 1929.

Mrs Littlejohn was Australian delegate to the congress of the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship in Istanbul in 1935. Next year she addressed the Assembly of the League of Nations on behalf of the Equal Rights International (Geneva), of which she became president in 1937. She lobbied the Australian high commissioner in London to promote the equal status programme of British feminists.

An ardent publicist for the feminist cause, Mrs Littlejohn broadcast for the British Broadcasting Corporation and for 2UW and 2UE in Sydney. She reported for the Australian Women's Weekly on the campaigns of the United Associations and the Australian Federation of Women Voters. She belonged to the New South Wales Institute of Journalists (1933-41) and the Business and Professional Women's club of Sydney. In her novel Life and Lucille (1933) she dramatized the need for women in parliament, divorce reform and the introduction of adequate training to enable women to be economically independent of their fathers and husbands.

From 1937 Linda Littlejohn annually toured Europe and the United States of America, lecturing on women's rights and stressing the urgent need for women to oppose Fascism and preserve democratic government through international solidarity. In 1939 she resigned as vice-president of the United Associations and president of the Equal Rights International. She worked briefly in 1941 as national director of recruiting for the Women's Australian National Services. On 21 April she divorced Albert Littlejohn and went to America next year. At Charleston, South Carolina, on 6 April 1942 she married Charles Joseph Tilden, a retired professor of engineering from Yale University, and settled in New Jersey; they returned to Sydney in 1944. She died of cancer in the Scottish Hospital, Paddington, on 21 March 1949 and was cremated. Survived by her husband, and her two sons and two daughters, she left an estate valued for probate at £42,070.

Linda Littlejohn was a talented debater and forceful speaker who commanded attention on the public platform and the airwaves. Tall and always elegantly attired, she is remembered for her charismatic personality and commitment to the international women's movement.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Mitchell, 50 Years of Feminist Achievement—a History of the United Association of Women (Syd, no date)
  • Ascham Charivari, June 1903, Dec 1905, May 1906, June 1907, Sept 1908, Nov 1915, May 1916, May 1917, Nov 1920, May 1925, May 1928
  • Plain Talk, 30 Mar 1929, p 29
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Nov 1928, 18 Mar, 31 Dec 1929, 6 Nov 1931, 17 Feb, 10 Nov 1933, 21 Feb 1940, 17 July, 28 Aug 1941, 21 July 1944, 24 Mar 1949
  • Feminist Club records (State Library of New South Wales)
  • United Association of Women records (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Meredith Foley, 'Littlejohn, Emma Linda Palmer (1883–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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