Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Emily Dorothea Pavy (1885–1967)

by Helen Bourke

This article was published:

Emily Dorothea Pavy (1885-1967), teacher, sociologist and lawyer, was born on 19 June 1885 at North Adelaide, eldest child of Cornelius Proud, shorthand writer and sharebroker, and his wife Emily, née Good. Dorothea was raised in a liberal household where her Baptist father, a Yorkshireman, was an advocate of women's rights, particularly to the suffrage in South Australia. From public school in North Adelaide, she went to the Advanced School for Girls and, after experience as a pupil-teacher, entered the University of Adelaide (B.A., 1906). For five years she taught at Kyre College, Adelaide; her involvement in the Progressive Club for factory girls indicated her future interests.

In 1912 Dorothea Proud won the first Catherine Helen Spence scholarship for sociology. She left next year for the London School of Economics where she investigated the industrial conditions of female factory workers (D.Sc., 1916). Her thesis was published as Welfare Work (London, 1916); the term described employers' initiatives to achieve harmonious relations with their workers by providing conditions and amenities which would both humanize the industrial environment and increase productivity. Proud's book examined the 'betterment' of such conditions, and welfare policies for women in British factories. Her research drew on her many factory visits across Britain and observations in Australasia; before leaving Adelaide she had gained first-hand experience as an unskilled factory-worker in New Zealand. She believed that welfare measures could enhance the 'recognition of individuality' and the standard of living—it was neither demeaning charity nor the mechanistic efficiency disdained by some Australians. Marion Phillips considered that Proud took 'the whole subject of welfare work out of the range of philanthropy into that of social economics'. Prime Minister Lloyd George, who contributed an enthusiastic preface to Welfare Work, had established a welfare department at the Ministry of Munitions under the direction of B. Seebohm Rowntree, whom Proud was appointed to assist in 1915-19. A 'live wire', she proved accessible and unaffected in the position, and organized factory inspections to ensure the health and output of women workers in a vital industry. In 1917 the British government appointed her C.B.E.

Dorothea married Lieutenant Gordon Augustus Pavy from Adelaide, then of the 48th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, at the Marylebone registry office, London, on 10 November 1917. Two years later they came home. She began legal studies at the University of Adelaide, being articled to her husband, a lawyer, from 1924, and admitted to the Bar in 1928. They shared a partnership in general legal practice. Dorothea Pavy pursued women's issues through the law, community service and research. A member of the Catherine Helen Spence scholarship selection committee until 1962, she also convened the law committee of the State branch of the National Council of Women. She lectured to social science students at the university and in 1946, supported by a research grant, embarked on a study of divorcees' children since 1918; ill health prevented its completion. Tall, stout, rather formidable and a teetotaller, Dorothea Pavy is remembered in the State's legal profession for her dedicated and meticulous work. She retired in 1953 and her husband died in 1964. Long a victim of arthritis, Dorothea died on 8 September 1967, and was cremated. Her son and daughter, both medical practitioners, survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Jones, In Her Own Name (Adel, 1986)
  • A. Mackinnon, The New Women (Adel, 1986)
  • The Highway, 9, no 97, Oct 1916
  • The Times Literary Supplement, 31 Aug 1916
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 26 Sept 1916, 13 Sept 1967
  • Mail (Adelaide), 6 Mar 1920
  • files GRG 18/2/1912/896 (Dept of Education, Archives, Adelaide)
  • records and newsclippings (University of Adelaide)
  • private information.

Citation details

Helen Bourke, 'Pavy, Emily Dorothea (1885–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Dorothea Pavy, 1906

Dorothea Pavy, 1906

State Library of South Australia, b20944160

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Proud, Emily Dorothea

19 June, 1885
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


8 September, 1967 (aged 82)
Adelaide, South Australia, 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.