Elizabeth Ahern

Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Ahern (1877-1969)

Socialist Propagandist & Women’s Activist

Location: Lawn*H*6

Lizzie Ahern who was a well-known socialist propagandist during the early part of the 20th century was born on 19 October 1877 at Sago Hill near Haddon, south-west of Ballarat, Victoria one of twelve children of Irish-born Edmund Allen and his wife Eliza née Kiely. Joining the Victorian Socialist Party in 1905, she soon became one of the party’s most effective speakers. Her speeches on the banks of the Yarra river were said to have been so popular, women would happily lose a day’s pay to hear her views; in November 1906 she was arrested and jailed for ten days for obstruction. 

A staunch defender of freedom of speech and women’s rights, in 1916 Ahern joined the Australian Labor Party and served on the Trades Hall Council as a delegate for the Caterers’ Employees’ Union; she was bitterly opposed to conscription. Described as “energetic, courageous and determined to the point of stubbornness”, Ahern served on the executive committee of the Victorian Socialist Party 1906-10, 1910, 1917-18. Her husband Arthur Wallace (1879-1952) had an undistinguished parliamentary career as Labor member for the seat of Albert Park (1919-27, 1929-32), and with the South Melbourne Council (1929-37) serving as Mayor in 1934. 

Residing at 68 Barrett Street, Albert Park, she died on 7 April 1969 survived by a daughter.

ADB Volume 7 1891-1939 (A-Ch).
Information from Joan Hunt.