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Pavy, Emily Dorothea (1885 - 1967)


19 June 1885
North Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
8 September 1967
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Activist, Lawyer, Social theorist and Solicitor
Alternative Names
  • Proud, Emily Dorothea (birth name)


Emily Dorothea Pavy was an advocate for the welfare of factory workers before becoming a lawyer to pursue women's issues. Known for her dedicated and meticulous work, Pavy was a trailblazer both as a sociologist and a lawyer.

Read more about Emily Dorothea Pavy in our sister publication The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia.


Dorothea was born on 19 June 1885 at North Adelaide. Her parents were strong advocates for women's rights. Dorothea's mother had been a non-graduating student at the University of Adelaide before women were admitted to degrees and her father advocated higher education for women. She completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Adelaide in 1906 and became a teacher. At this time she was active in the Progressive Club for factory girls.

In 1912 Dorothea Proud won the first Catherine Helen Spence scholarship for sociology. She left next year for the London School of Economics where she investigated the industrial conditions of female factory workers, graduating from her Doctor of Science in 1916. She believed that welfare measures could enhance the 'recognition of individuality' and the standard of living. Dorothea drew her research from factory visits across Britain and observations in Australia and New Zealand. Proud's thesis contained an enthusiastic preface from Prime Minister Lloyd George, then Minister for Munitions. When Lloyd George asked Seebohm Rowntree to organise the welfare section of the Ministry of Munitions, Dorothea was appointed to assist in 1915-1919. In 1917 the British government appointed her CBE.

Dorothea married Lieutenant Gordon Augustus Pavy from Adelaide on 10 November 1917 in London and had two children. Two years after they married, the Pavys returned to Australia and Dorothea began legal studies at the University of Adelaide. She was articled to her husband, a lawyer, from 1924, and admitted to the Bar in 1928. The Pavys shared a partnership in general legal practice. Dorothea was a member of the Catherine Helen Spence scholarship selection committee until 1962 and convened the law committee of the State branch of the National Council of Women. She lectured social science and worked on a study of divorcees' children. She retired in 1953 and died on 8 September 1967.

Sources used to compile this entry: Bourke, Helen, 'Pavy, Emily Dorothea (1885-1967)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,

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  • Phillips, Marion (1881 - 1932)

    Marion Phillips admired Emily Pavy, who she considered to have taken 'the whole subject of welfare work out of the range of philanthropy into that of social economics'.

Nicola Silbert

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