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Ivy Blanche Irene Smith (1884–1975)

by H. L. Dodson

This article was published:

Ivy Blanche Irene Smith (1884-1975), teacher and community worker, was born on 14 April 1884 in Hobart, sixth child of Alfred Edward Foster, butcher, and his wife Harriett, née Lipscombe. Educated at Miss Lipscombe's School, Sandy Bay, and at Queen's College, Hobart, in 1902 she became the first girl student to win a science and mathematics scholarship in the senior public examination and in 1906 the second (with another) female graduate in science from the University of Tasmania.

Miss Foster taught at Hobart Girls' High School in 1907 until appointed in June to the highly rated Beaconsfield Primary School; she also took evening classes at the Beaconsfield School of Mines. In 1911-13 she lectured at the Philip Smith Training College, resigning to marry George Oliver Smith, later Hobart city engineer, on 11 March 1914 at Melville Street Methodist Church.

Mrs Smith, well-known in Hobart as 'Mrs G.O.', devoted her life to improving the conditions of people in the community, particularly women and children, and was a founder and executive member of many welfare associations. She was probably best known as the founder in 1928 of the first mothers' club in Tasmania at the Campbell Street Practising School, set up to feed and clothe poverty-stricken children. After further mothers' clubs were established Mrs Smith became president and life member of the Tasmanian Council of State School Mothers' Clubs.

Other organizations, over most of which she had presided, which granted her life membership were the National Council of Women of Tasmania, Tasmanian University Women Graduates' Association, Campbell Street Practising School Mothers' Club and its Parents and Friends Association, Dora Turner School (originally Girls' Welfare School), Tasmanian Council for Children's Films and Television and the Southern Tasmanian Women's Basketball Association. She also worked for the Child Health Association, League of Nations Union, Bush Nursing Association, Southern Tasmanian Council of Parents and Friends Associations which she represented on the Road Safety Council and the Australian Broadcasting Commission's schools' broadcasting committee, the Good Neighbour Council, Country Women's Association, Australian Comforts Fund, Women's Non-Party League and Woman's Christian Temperance Union. A member of the Methodist Church, she sang in the Wesley Church choir.

Mrs Smith was a stickler for honesty and integrity. Very persistent, her tactful forcefulness made her an effective member of many deputations to parliamentarians and others in positions of power; at times she did not mince words. A minister for education was once heard to say, 'Well, the old lady won out'. She was an extrovert, very fond of children, helpful to returned soldiers and personally generous with time and material aid for anyone in need. She was appointed M.B.E. in 1970.

Ivy Smith died at New Town on 15 February 1975, survived by her two daughters, and was cremated. A portrait by D. V. Penny is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • Mercury (Hobart), 18 Feb 1975
  • Education Department (Tasmania) records (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • private information.

Citation details

H. L. Dodson, 'Smith, Ivy Blanche Irene (1884–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 15 July 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

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Foster, Ivy Blanche Irene

14 April, 1884
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


15 February, 1975 (aged 90)
New Town, Hobart, Tasmania, 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.