Today we remember the long-time union activist and leader Jean Daley, who was born in Adelaide, September 1881.
Jean moved to Melbourne sometime around 1909 and became active in the labour movement.
She was part of the Women’s Organising Committee which sought to organise working-class women and campaign against sexism.
Her union activism led to her being elected as a delegate for the Hotel and Caterers’ Union to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council in 1916.
That year the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, announced a referendum on conscription.
Jean was completely opposed to the idea that Australians would be compelled to fight in Europe against their will and threw herself into the successful union campaign against conscription.
She made a name for herself as one of the labour movement’s most effective speakers and agitators as she campaigned against the rising cost of living and declining living standards for workers in the later stages of the war.
When a new Women’s Central Organising Committee was formed in the Victorian labour movement in 1918, Jean was elected as its first president spearheading campaigns for peace, more education for working-class children, and to better unionise working women.
In 1923 she joined with other women union activists such as Muriel Heagney to organise a conference on the important issue of the maternity allowance, which over 200 delegates attended.
She remained a ferocious advocate for working women and for unionism until she was forced to retire due to ill-health in 1947.
She passed away the following year, after a lifetime of dedication to the cause of unionism and the long fight for gender equity. We are proud to remember her contribution.