Mary Catherine Rogers

Born
2 August 1872
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died
25 September 1932
Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Occupation
Lawyer, Local government councillor, Magistrate, Political party organiser and Trade unionist
Alternative Names
  • Skeahan, Mary (birth name)
Jurisdiction

Mary Rogers became the first woman councillor in Victoria when she was elected to the Richmond City Council in 1920. She was appointed as organiser for the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party.

Mary Rogers was raised in East Melbourne, where she attended a local Catholic school. In 1900 she married Patrick Denis Rogers and the pair had five children, though one died in infancy. Patrick, an upholsterer, had been president of the Furniture Trades Union. Mary, employed as a cleaner after the death of her husband in 1910, became president of the Women Office Cleaners' Union, and later vice-president of the Miscellaneous Workers' Union.

Rogers maintained a longterm involvement with the Australian Labor Party, becoming organiser for its Victorian Branch in 1918, and president of its Women's Organizing Committee. In 1920 she was elected to the Richmond City Council at a by-election, making her Victoria's first woman councillor, and worked to improve the living conditions of Richmond's poor. Rogers was also one of the first women appointed as a justice of the peace in Victoria and became a special magistrate at the Children's Court in Richmond. She served for some time as secretary of the welfare committee of the Catholic Women's Social Guild.

Mary Rogers died of cancer in 1932, and was buried at Boroondara cemetary, Kew.

Sources used to compile this entry: Cunneen, Chris and Torney, Kim, 'Rogers, Mary Catherine (1872-1932)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/AS10415b.htm; 'Rogers, Mary Catherine (1872-1932)', Trove, National Library of Australia, 2009, http://nla.gov.au/nla.party-739060; Smith, A. Viola, Women in Australian Parliaments and Local Governments, Past and Present, Australian Local Government Women's Association; Australian National Advisory Committee on International Women's Year, Australian Local Government Women's Association, Canberra, 1975, 148 pp; Worrall, Allison, Woman to light up pedestrian lights for the first time, The Age, 7 March 2016, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/woman-to-light-up-pedestrian-lights-for-the-first-time-20160307-gnctll.html.

Prepared by Barbara Lemon