Woman Locke, Lilian (1869 - 1950)

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Labour movement activist and Suffragist

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Lilian Locke was a leader in the suffrage movement in Victoria and a worker for the Australian labour movement. Born in 1869 in Melbourne, into a large family of girls, she was described as 'a reformer by heredity' (The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), 28 October 1916, p. 10). She was a socialist and friend of the prominent suffragist, Vida Goldstein with whom she worked in the 1890s, serving as secretary of the United Council for Woman's Suffrage. She then took up the post of organising secretary of the Political Labor Council of Victoria.

Locke campaigned for votes for women and to raise concerns of working women through speaking engagements in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and through her contributions to the labour journal, Tocsin. She deflected criticism of the impact of the suffrage, arguing that 'woman was quite equal to man' and that 'the best housekeepers were the best politicians' (Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 11 August 1904, p. 2). In the early years of the century she was the only female member of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne; after relocation, in 1905 she was a Tasmanian delegate at the Commonwealth Political Labor Conference. The following year, in Christ Church, South Yarra, Locke married George Burns, who was a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly 1903- 1906.

Locke worked as an industrial organizer (as did her husband) in Queensland from 1907 until 1910. The couple then worked for labour in New South Wales; Burns represented Illawarra in the House of Representatives from 1913 to 1917. Locke continued her involvement with labour concerns in New South Wales until she died in Sydney in 1950.

Archival Resources

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • Collection of newspaper cuttings, broadsides and other ephemera relating to the political and other activities of Lilian Locke-Burns, c. 1893 - c. 1907, M Z/Q329.3/B; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

Published Resources

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also