Lucy Woodcock

Lucy Woodcock (1889-1968), teacher, was born on 23 February 1889, daughter of Janet and Thomas Woodcock. She began her working life as a pupil teacher in 1906. She studied as a evening student at the University of Sydney, graduating BA (1922) and BEc (1924). In 1926 she went to England for two years as an exchange teacher. On her return she taught at the Erskineville Home Economics School and was principal there from 1932 until her retirement in 1953.

Lucy Woodcock was a founding member of the New South Wales Teachers' Federation in 1919. She was elected to the union executive in 1924, was senior vice president from 1933 (when few women reached senior position in the union) and president of the Australian Teachers' Federation in 1932. Taking a leading part in all campaigns for the advancement of education and the improvement of teachers' salaries and working conditions, she represented the Teachers' Federation on the Labour Council of New South Wales and the ACTU. She was elected to the Senate of the University of Sydney in 1942.

During the depression Lucy Woodcock was a leader in the campaign against the reduction of teachers' salaries. She also established a reputation as a practical humanitarian by organising the supply of daily meals for children of impoverished Erskineville parents. In the same period she helped build the campaign, inside and outside the Teachers' Federation, against the Married Women Teachers and Lecturers Dismissal Act (repealed in 1947). A member of the United Associations of Women, she had its support for the campaign on behalf of married women teachers, and also in another campaign for equal pay for teachers. She was an active member of the first trade union equal pay committee and jointly chaired the Council of Action for Equal Pay with Muriel Heagney (q.v.).

In the United Associations she was actively associated with the Australian Women's Charter, and after her retirement from teaching became vice president and in 1957 president of the United Associations. It was one of the organisations involved in a nationwide education conference in 1957. In 1963 she represented it and women teachers at a victory dinner celebrating equal pay for teachers in New South Wales. She was a trade unionist who found it quite proper to join with those, regarded by some trade unionists as middle class, in the pursuit of common goals. She did not hesitate to espouse unfashionable causes: on overseas trips she acted as a United Associations' delegate to peace conferences; she twice visited Communist China. She helped found the Australia- China Society and she helped Chinese students with language difficulties and young Chinese women oppressed in Australia by traditions of older generations. The Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship started in a meeting at her flat on 24 April 1956. She was feminist who linked her ideas about the emancipation of women with all the other needs for justice in the community. She died on 29 February 1968.

Winifred Mitchell

Winifred Mitchell 50 Years of Feminist Achievement: a History of the United Associations of Women 1979.