Woman Mawson, Francisca Adriana

Charity Worker
Alternative Names
  • Mawson, Paquita

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Paquita Mawson was born in London in 1891, the sixth of seven children of engineer Guillaume Delprat and his wife Henrietta. She spent her early childhood in Spain, migrating to Australia in 1899. After a private schooling in Broken Hill and Adelaide, she married geologist and Antarctic explorer Douglas (later Sir Douglas) Mawson in 1914 and gave birth to two daughters over the next three years.

Mawson was active in Adelaide social circles; a member of the University Wives, Lyceum and Queen Adelaide clubs and for nine years president of the Mothers and Babies Health Association (MBHA). As the wife of a famous man, she was reported as a celebrity when she toured the state on behalf of her various causes, often raising money by talking about her experiences when travelling both within and beyond Australia. A talented singer, she also raised funds through organising concerts and community singing sessions. While Mawson did not expect the poor to be grateful for the help they received, she was critical of those who 'took charity for granted', a sign, she interpreted as evidence of a loss of pride (Advertiser, 3 July 1930).

During World War II she worked with South Australian Red Cross, appealing for donations of clothes to be sent to war zones and co-ordinating the five teams of women who met weekly to repair and pack the donated goods (Mail, 15 January 1944). The first relief department to be established in Australia and the last to close, it sent more than 3000 cases of clothing to Britain during the course of the war (Advertiser, 4 May 1946) as well as assisting women and children evacuated to Adelaide (Mail, 14 March 1942). Mawson also established a club for refugees from the Dutch East Indies who had settled in Adelaide seeing this as a particular responsibility because of her family's Dutch origins (Advertiser, 31 March 1942). After the war she urged women to continue to work together, arguing 'what we have got ahead of us is what we put there ourselves. The future is our responsibility' (Advertiser, 7 August 1947).

On her retirement in 1948 from the presidency of the MBHA, Mawson was commended both for her modesty about her achievements and the 'willpower' through which she had brought them about (Advertiser, 20 November 1948). 'If I have been any sort of a leader', she responded, 'it has been due to ... [the committee's] co-operation' (Advertiser, 23 March 1949). For her work amongst Dutch refugees she was appointed an office of the order of Orange-Nassau in 1946 (Advertiser, 26 February 1946), and in 1951 was awarded an OBE. She died in 1974.

Published Resources


  • McEwin, Emma, An Atlantic Affair, East Street Publications, Adelaide, South Australia, 2008. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also