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Aileen Elizabeth Lynch (1898–1983)

by Melanie Oppenheimer

This article was published:

Aileen Elizabeth Lynch (1898-1983), State superintendent, Australian Women’s Land Army, was born on 15 May 1898 at Waverley, Sydney, daughter of Irish-born parents Patrick Ryan, sewerage labourer, and his wife Mary, née Murphy.  Registered at birth as Elizabeth Eileen, she was educated at St Clare’s Convent, Waverley, and on 14 May 1917 she joined the New South Wales Public Service, where she spent most of her working life.  Aileen Elizabeth, as she was now known, was employed as a typist and shorthand writer in the Department of Public Works until April 1924 when she moved to the Premier’s Department.  There she was attached to the migration agreement executive committee, and later worked in the ministerial office.  On 1 October 1927 Aileen married Francis Swinbourne Lynch, cable clerk, at St Anthony’s Catholic Church, Clovelly.  In July 1940 she was transferred to the controller of salvage, to undertake war work.

Seconded to the Women’s Auxiliary National Service on 25 February 1941, Lynch was employed as officer-in-charge of headquarters administration.  At the suggestion of Wallace Charles Wurth, Federal director of manpower priorities and chairman of the Manpower Priorities Board, she began to focus on the land army section, which two volunteer war workers, Lorna Byrne and Ada Beveridge, had organised since July 1940.  There is little evidence to support a suggestion that Lynch herself was responsible for inaugurating the land army on which the AWLA was based.

In May 1942 the State government seconded Lynch to the staff of the Directorate of Manpower, which brought together all the State-based land armies.  The national AWLA was established in July.  Although it appears that she never actually joined the organisation, Lynch was appointed superintendent in New South Wales.  She ran the State headquarters and supervised the selection, enrolment and welfare of the women who joined the land army.  Often referred to as the 'director' of the land army, Lynch regularly travelled around rural New South Wales assessing accommodation needs, meeting with farmers and ensuring that land army girls were being employed and treated properly.  From all accounts she was an efficient and capable administrator.

The AWLA ceased to operate in December 1945 and on 7 May 1946 Lynch returned to the Premier’s Department.  However, she resigned in 1947.  Lynch helped to form a club that would further the interests of ex-members of the AWLA and provide a meeting place for them, but suitable premises were difficult to obtain and her club was eventually disbanded.  She found temporary employment with the Child and Social Welfare department in 1960 but resigned in May 1963.  Described as a 'keen business woman who was still going into the office at 80-odd' Lynch was a member of the Manly and Moss Vale golf clubs, and enjoyed tennis and swimming.  Predeceased by her husband, and childless, she died on 20 January 1983 at her home at Waverton and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Scott, Girls With Grit, 1995
  • C. Morgan, Castle, Kit Bag and Cattle Truck, 2001
  • A. E. Lynch, NSW Public Service hist card, 8/2672 (State Records New South Wales)
  • general correspondence, AWLA, series C605 (National Archives of Australia)
  • AWLA records (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Melanie Oppenheimer, 'Lynch, Aileen Elizabeth (1898–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 19 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Aileen Lynch, n.d.

Aileen Lynch, n.d.

Australian War Memorial, 123898

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Ryan, Aileen Elizabeth

15 May, 1898
Waverley, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


20 January, 1983 (aged 84)
Waverton, 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.