Eleanor Hinder

Eleanor Mary Hinder (1893-1963), international public servant, was born on 19 January 1893 at Maitland, New South Wales, third daughter of Sarah Florence (born Mills) and John Hinder, headmaster. Educated at Maitland West Girls' High School, Teachers' College and the University of Sydney (BSc 1914), she taught biology at North Sydney Girls' High and gave tutorials for the Workers' Educational Association. She held office in the Student Christian Movement and the Women Graduates' Association.

In 1919 Eleanor Hinder was appointed welfare superintendent at Farmer & Co. Ltd, one of the first such appointments by an Australian firm. She advised on training and placements, formed a social club, and with Jean Stevenson from the Young Women's Christian Association founded the City Girls Amateur Sports Association. While promoting loyalty to the company she also encouraged its young female employees to use leisure constructively and to keep fit. During the inquiry into the minimum wage she opposed employer submissions for a reduction, mobilising National Council of Women support: '. . . to safeguard the moral and spiritual issues in the lives of women it is inadvisable that the Basic Wage for women descend below the present rate of 2 pound 1 shilling a week'.

In 1924 Eleanor travelled overseas to investigate industrial welfare in America and Europe where she studied the work of the International Labour Organisation. She attended the Congress of the International Federation of University Women in Oslo. En route she visited Shanghai at the invitation of the YWCA in China. In 1926 she resigned from Farmers to go to China for two years on a Rockefeller fellowship. There had been recent industrial trouble in Shanghai; the British dominated Shanghai Municipal Council resisted any regulation of labour and the extra-territorial status of the International Settlement prevented Chinese labour laws from operating within the Settlement.

Eleanor became a publicist for regulation, especially in regard to the employment of women and children. Her meeting with A. Viola Smith, an American assistant trade commissioner, led to an intimate lifelong friendship. In 1928 Eleanor was a delegate to the Pan Pacific Women's Conference in Honolulu. On a visit home she published a series of articles on 'rebuilding' China. She went as Australian delegate to the Kyoto conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations (1929) and resumed her work in China. After another study trip to America and Europe in 1932, she was appointed chief of Shanghai Municipality's newly created Industrial Division. Though Chinese labour law remained unenforceable, she effected some improvements in health and safety and industrial training. After the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, care of orphans became her main work. When Australia was drawn into the war in 1941, Hinder became a prisoner of war but was repatriated in 1942, to London, where she joined the British Foreign Office and was sent to Montreal to work for the International Labour Organisation.

Her appointment in 1944 as British representative on the Far Eastern subcommittee of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association Technical Committee marks the beginning of a distinguished career with the United Nations. She was appointed OBE in 1950. In 1951 she resigned from the Foreign Office to become chief of the Project Planning Division of the Technical Assistance Administration of the United Nations for Asia and the Far East, becoming chief of operations in l953. She was officially retired in 1956 and, failing in an attempt to secure American citizenship, established a home in Sydney with her friend Viola Smith, but she continued her work for the United Nations under contract. On her way to New York on 10 April 1963 she died at San Francisco of coronary occlusion. Some of her fine collection of Chinese ceramics went to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 1975 with funds from the National Advisory Council for International Women's Year, Viola Smith published Women in Australian Parliaments and Local Government Past and Present. When Viola died in 1976 she bequeathed an award for a biography to be written of her friend.

Meredith Foley and Heather Radi

Frances Wheelhouse Eleanor Mary Hinder 1978.