Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Elizabeth Anne Valentine Sterne (1880–1973)

by K. E. Gill

This article was published:

Elizabeth Anne Valentine Sterne (1880-1973), community leader, was born on 14 February 1880 at Emerald, Queensland, fifth surviving child of Irish parents, Michael Hanrahan, labourer, and his wife Elizabeth Anne, née Trant. Having passed the junior public examination at the age of 12, Elizabeth left school to work for a merchant at Townsville and subsequently became assistant clerk of Wambo Shire Council, Dalby. She next taught business subjects at Charters Towers Technical College and was correspondent for the Townsville Evening Star.

Moving to Warwick in 1909, Elizabeth taught at the local technical college. On 6 October in Brisbane she married Henry Sterne, a widower and editor of the Warwick Examiner. Helping to establish Warwick High School, 'E.V.A.' (as she was called by her peers) remained honorary secretary of the school and technical college for twenty years. The mother of four children and stepmother of three, she nevertheless found time for community service. During World War I she was active in the Red Cross Society and from 1928 to 1968 helped to organize the Anzac Day diggers' lunches; she was one of the first women in Queensland to become a justice of the peace.

Appointed to the governing council of the new Queensland Country Women's Association, Sterne was its first State treasurer from 1924 to 1944. She also became deputations delegate, responsible for bringing matters that concerned the association to the attention of the Queensland government. A gifted public speaker with 'an alert executive brain', she knew 'how to disarm with a jest'. Her talents extended to finding good ideas in others and to presenting them in acceptable form. The State international officer (1944-47, 1951-53 and 1959-62), she represented the Q.C.W.A. at overseas conferences. As the association's State president from 1947 to 1950, and national president in 1950, she entertained many eminent visitors. 'Her deep but unintrusive religious faith' expressed itself in a wide range of charitable works. Noted for her money-raising ability, she was invited to organize the Australian Comforts Fund at the beginning of World War II; she was appointed O.B.E. in 1941.

Known affectionately as 'Chute' by her family, Sterne combined a loving domestic life with public professionalism. She was founding president of the Warwick Business and Professional Womens' Club and for some years a member of the Warwick Hospital board. From the age of 70 to 90 she ran a catering business. Predeceased by her husband, Sterne died in Warwick General Hospital on 17 April 1973 and was buried with Catholic rites in Warwick cemetery. She was survived by one son, two daughters, a stepdaughter and a foster-daughter. An obituary paid tribute to her charm, eloquence and drive.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland Country Women's Association, Fifty Years 1922-72 (Brisb, 1972?)
  • J. McKey, The Warwick Story (Warwick, 1977)
  • Queensland Countrywoman, June 1973
  • Queenslander, 23 June 1927
  • Warwick Daily News, 18 Apr 1973
  • private information.

Citation details

K. E. Gill, 'Sterne, Elizabeth Anne Valentine (1880–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Hanrahan, Elizabeth Anne Valentine

14 February, 1880
Emerald, Queensland, Australia


17 April, 1973 (aged 93)
Warwick, Queensland, 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.

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.