Woman Andrews, Shirley Aldythea Marshall Seymour
- Aboriginal rights activist, Biochemist, Communist, dancer and historian
Written by Jenny Hibben, The University of Melbourne
Born in Sandringham, Victoria, in 1915, Shirley Andrews was the only child of a single mother, Doris Andrews nee Gray. She lived with her mother, grandmother and uncle and attended Miss Montfort's school in Sandringham until the age of 11 when she became a boarder at St Michael's Grammar School in St Kilda. Completing her secondary education in 1933 she enrolled in a BSc at the University of Melbourne in the following year. At university she began her interest in the left of politics through the Movement Against War and Fascism, and in dance by joining Borovansky's ballet classes for working girls.
Shirley won a Caroline Kay scholarship at the end of her science studies and worked in the Veterinary School at the university for 6 years. She then joined the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), later, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), as a research officer taking on a variety of scientific roles. However, her membership of the Communist Party, which she had joined towards the end of World War II, caused some difficulties and she resigned in 1951 to go to the International Youth Peace Festival in Berlin.
In 1952, she was appointed Senior Biochemist at the Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital where she remained until her retirement in 1977. Here she worked with the Hospital's superintendent, Dr John Cade, on the biochemical tests for lithium that he trialled to such success. She was in charge of the hospital's laboratory and oversaw the general testing and also did research into the effects of bromureide abuse publishing several papers on her work.
In early 1951 Shirley had joined the executive of the Council for Aboriginal Rights (CAR), an organisation seeking to find a federal solution to various State legislation that enshrined racism and prejudice. She resumed this role on her return to Australia in 1952. Activism for political and economic rights for Australian Aborigines provided a political focus for the next two decades, culminating in the creation of the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement, later FCAATSI and their successful push for a 'Yes' vote in the 1967 referendum. Andrews had worked assiduously, writing letters and papers, speaking to newspapers, individuals and organisations and attending meetings around Australia.
Shirley provided leadership in dance circles drawing both on personal experience and research into the background of how Australians danced from the earliest days of white settlement. The combination made her an expert in this area, acknowledged by people in folk music circles who wanted to learn of the post-World War II. For Communists in the post-war era the revival of dance was linked to a political push for more Australian identified culture in order to counteract the increasing American influence and Shirley became the acknowledged expert in the area. Her Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), awarded in 1994, recognised her contribution to dance in Australia.
Although independent, Shirley pursued her life interests with the support of various groups of friends and acquaintances. She never married, but did have one significant relationship during the 1940s and early 1950s with Bill Bird, the secretary of the Victorian Seamen's Union. Her decision to remain single and childless was a major point of difference between Shirley and her peers. She was aware of discrimination against women from her studies at the university and stated that her involvement in seeking rights for Indigenous Australians was due to empathy learned from her position as a woman in a patriarchal society.
Shirley preferred to work in 'the backroom' and yet she was a self-confident and able leader, which she showed in her laboratory, in dance circles, at the head of Aboriginal rights committees and in public speaking. She called herself a 'liberated woman' and later a feminist and believed strongly in women's abilities. Shirley understood her own capabilities and she was occasionally scornful of those with whom she came into contact who did not live up to her exacting standards. That she denied seeking positions of leadership was mere modesty, they came to her because she believed in working hard, committing to service positions in organisations that interested and stimulated her and because she knew that she could do them better than most.
Additional sources: Hibben, J.A, 'Shirley Andrews: A Prismatic Life', PhD thesis (Unpublished), University of Melbourne, 2012.
National Archives of Australia
- Andrews, Shirley Aldythea Seymour Marshall, aka SEYMOUR, Shirley. Volume 1, 1949 - 1962, 4358168; National Archives of Australia. Details
- Andrews, Shirley Aldythea Seymour Marshall, aka SEYMOUR, Shirley. Volume 2, 1965 - 1978, 5438149; National Archives of Australia. Details
- Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Shirley Andrews, 1953 - 1962, 5438148; National Archives of Australia. Details
National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection
- Letters from Shirley Andrews to Arthur Turnbull, 1979 - 1989, MS 9880; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
- Papers of Shirley Andrews, 1917 - 2002, MS 6000; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
National Library of Australia Oral History Collection
- Interview with Shirley Andrews [sound recording] / Interviewer : Peter Read, 2 March 1989, ORAL TRC 2303/33; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
- Interview with Shirley Andrews, Australian folk dancer [sound recording] / interviewed and recorded by John Meredith and Peter Ellis, 15 July 1991, ORAL TRC 2590/18; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
- Shirley Andrews interviewed by Chris Sullivan for the Chris Sullivan folklore collection [sound recording], 1984, ORAL TRC 1719; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
- Shirley Andrews, interviewed by Geri Lobl, January 18 1989, ORAL TRC 2486; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
- Shirley Andrews, interviewed by Wendy Lowenstein in the Communists and the Left in the Arts and Community Oral History Project, 10 June 1993 - 14 April 1994, ORAL TRC 3111/1; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
State Library of Victoria
- Andrews, Shirley, Wages and Employment of Aborigines, Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement: Equal Wages for Aborigines Committee, Melbourne, Victoria, 1962. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, Speech Made at U.N. Seminar on the Role of the Police in the Protection of Human Rights, Council for Aboriginal Rights (Victoria), Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1963. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, The Australian Aborigines: A Summary of Their Situation in All States in February 1964, The University of Melbourne: Aboriginal Scholarships Society, Melbourne, Victoria, 1964. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, Take Your Partners: Traditional Social Dancing in Colonial Australia, 2 edn, Victorian Folk Music Club, North Fitzroy, Victoria, 1976. Details
- Andrews, Shirley and Ellis, Peter, Two Hundred Dancing Years and How to Celebrate Them with a Colonial Ball, The Australian Bicentennial Authority, Melbourne, Victoria, 1988. Details
- Andrews, Shirley and Hall, Rodney, A Yinjilli Leaflet: Social Services for Aborigines, Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement, 1963. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, 'Why Not Appreciate Australian Folklore As It Really Was Rather Than How You Think It Should Have Been?', in 3rd National Folklore Conference, 3rd National Folklore Conference Papers, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1988. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, 'Blood Bromide Levels in Psychiatric Patients Taking Bromureides', The Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 52, no. 1, 1965, pp. 646 - 652. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, 'A Musical Mixed Marriage', Australian Tradition, vol. 3, no. 2, June 1966, p. 27. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, 'Our Dancing Ancestors, Part 2', Australian Tradition, vol. 3, no. 20, August 1969, pp. 26 - 25. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, 'Reviving Australian Traditional Dance', Australian Tradition, vol. 3, no. 30, December 1972, pp. 20 - 22. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, 'Folk Have Always Danced', Australian Tradition, vol. 3, no. 30, December 1972, pp. 3-8; 18-19; 28. Details
- Andrews, Shirley and Serry, Maurice, 'The Lithium Excretion Test II. Practical and Biochemical Aspects', Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (ANZJP), vol. 3, no. 4, 1969, pp. 395 - 397. Details
- Gardner, Elma, 'Obituary of Shirley Andrews', Australian Tradition, October 2001. Details
- Taffe, Sue, 'Shirley Aldythea Andrews OAM', Australian Historical Studies, vol. 33, no. 119, 2002, pp. 190 - 192. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, 'Will Australian Traditional Dancing Survive?', Monaro Folk Music Society Inc. Newsletter, December 1978. Details
- Tully, Bill, 'Obituary of Shirley Andrews, 'Folk Dancer and Passionate Advocate', The Canberra Times, 02 November 2001. Details
- Andrews, Shirley, Our Dancing Ancestors, Part 3, Australian Tradition, vol. 3, September 1970, 15-16; 26; 32 pp. Details
- Lowenstein, Wendy, 'Shirley Aldythea Andrews - Scientist and Activist: 6 Nov 1915 to 15 Sep 2001', Victorian Folk Music Club inc, 2001, http://www.vfmc.org.au/ShirleyObit.htm. Details
- Stockdale, Lucy, 'Obituary: Shirley Andrews, OAM', in Australian Folk Songs, 2010, http://folkstream.com/reviews/revival/shirley.html. Details
- Andrews, Shirley Aldythea Seymour Marshall, aka SEYMOUR, Shirley. Volume 1
- Digitised Paper Resource
- 1949 - 1962
- National Archives of Australia
- National Archives of Australia
- Andrews, Shirley Aldythea Seymour Marshall, aka SEYMOUR, Shirley. Volume 2
- Digitised Paper Resource
- 1965 - 1978
- National Archives of Australia
- Shirley Andrews interviewed by Geri Lobl
- 18 January 1989
- National Library of Australia
- Bib ID: 1396752
- National Library of Australia Oral History Collection
- Shirley Andrews: A Tribute
- 15 September 2001
- The Three Lives of Shirley Andrews
- 21 February 2010
- Hindsight - ABC Radio National