Woman Leal, Charlotte Mary Clarina

Community Worker
Alternative Names
  • Leal, Lottie

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Lottie Leal was born in the Clare, South Australia in 1881, the second of five daughters of teacher, John Harry and his wife Kate. After completing her secondary education at Adelaide's Advanced for Girls, she studied and later taught art until her marriage, in 1911, to stationer, John Leal. The couple were to have five children, but the employment of a resident housekeeper allowed Leal to pursue a busy public life.

During her husband's term as mayor of Thebarton, Leal set out to 'develop a community spirit' amongst the women of the suburb (Register, 21 September 1921), founding the state's first Women's Service Association, a School for Mothers Institute, baby health centre and Girl Guide company, and joining the local branch of the District Trained Nursing Association and the committee of the Minda Home. The local networks she established played a key role in providing relief in the district, particularly during the 1930s depression (Advertiser, 11 November 1930).

Leal also became the local delegate to the National Council of Women, serving terms as state president from 1929-34 and 1940-1. From 1934-5 she was one of only two women delegates on the committee appointed to plan the celebration of the state's centenary and from 1938-9 was a member of a committee enquiring into juvenile delinquency. As a committed Methodist she also supported church causes such as the Women's Home Mission League, the Resthaven Home for Lonely Women and the predecessor organisation to the Kate Cocks Home.

On her election to the NCW presidency, Leal was described as 'the most capable of leaders, with a level head and a quiet enthusiasm, and [a] pleasant manner ... admirably suited to a position requiring much tact'. Pleased to have been elected unopposed, she emphasised the need for unity, declaring that she could not 'work with people pulling different ways' (Register News-Pictorial, 9 October 1929). Women, she argued, 'should command respect not demand it', earning positions of authority through their intelligence rather than being 'thrust forward ... merely to give them equality with men' (Advertiser, 17 September 1930).

Awarded the MBE in 1936 (Advertiser, 1 January 1936), Leal died in 1961. A chapel at the Kate Cocks home was named in her honour.

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