• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE0005

Henderson, Beryl

(1897 – 1990)
  • Nationality Australian
  • Born 1 January, 1897, Lincoln England
  • Died 31 December, 1990, Jerusalem Israel
  • Occupation Women's liberationist


Beryl Henderson set up the Abortion Law Reform Association in Canberra. She was an active member of Canberra Women’s Liberation, and translated the French book Abortion: the Bobigny affair: law on trial. The first women’s refuge in Canberra was named after her and in 1987 the Beryl Henderson foundation was established.

Born in England, she arrived in Australia via Israel, to settle in Victoria in 1965. She eventually made Canberra her home until the end of the 1970s when she returned to Israel.


Beryl Henderson was born in Lincoln, England, in January 1897 and died in Jerusalem, Israel in December 1990, a month before her 94th birthday.

Although she gained entry to university, the economic circumstances in her family prevented her from taking up her place. She won a scholarship to the Diocesan Training College, Lincoln, and became a primary school teacher.

Early in life, Henderson became interested in political and social issues, associating with Fabian Society members and the Pankhurst family. She attended suffragette meetings with her mother and at the age of 16 was a founding member of the British Abortion Law Reform Association, along with Dora
Russell and other prominent women.

Henderson belonged to that generation of British women whose fiancés were killed in World War I and who never married. A feminist activist, Beryl became a councillor on the Extra Metropolitan London Borough Council, 1929-32, a member of the first Committee of the Abortion Law Reform Association in England in 1936 and a member of the Progressive League.

Henderson left England to teach languages in an Israeli Kibbutz in 1960-64. Answering an advertisement in an English newspaper, she then came to Victoria as a housekeeper in 1965. She visited Canberra on holiday and decided to make it her home. Renting a room in Ainslie she started her first job in Canberra, undertaking housecleaning and general domestic work.

Beryl Henderson found employment in Canberra Hospital in 1969, teaching English to migrants. She taught classes in 1969-73, forming many friendships in the migrant community. Volunteers from Women’s Liberation helped by minding the children to enable migrant mothers to attend classes.

Henderson was responsible for setting up the Abortion Law Reform Association in Canberra. She also became active in the Family Planning Association (Life Membership in 1979) and the Humanist Society. As an active member of Canberra Women’s Liberation, Henderson performed the official opening of the first Women’s Refuge in Canberra (1975), now named after her.

In 1974 Henderson translated from the French the book on the Bobigny Trial in France, Abortion: the Bobigny affair: law on trial, which was published by Wild and Woolley, Sydney 1975. Gisele Halimi, the French Arab lawyer who conducted the defence in the famous trial and wrote the book, expressed her great satisfaction with the standard of Henderson’s translation when she launched it in Sydney during International Women’s Year, 1975. The Women’s Movement in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra contributed to the cost of the publication.

At the end of the 1970s Henderson returned to Israel. Soon after her ninetieth birthday, at the suggestion of her friends in Australia, she agreed to set up the Foundation in her name. The Beryl Henderson Foundation was established in May 1987 by eight of her friends. It offers an annual prize for an essay of no more than 5000 words on a topic relevant to women’s studies or to the status of women. Eligible entrants must be enrolled in an undergraduate course in a post-secondary public education institution in Australia in the year preceding submission. The inaugural prize was presented in 1998.



  • 1936 - 1936

    Member of first Committee of the Abortion Law Reform Association, England

  • 1960 - 1964

    Taught languages in an Israeli Kibbutz

  • 1965 - 1968

    Housekeeper, Victoria and then Canberra, Australia

  • 1969 - 1969

    Taught English to migrants, Canberra Hospital

  • 1969 - 1973

    Taught English classes to migrant community

  • 1979 - 1979

    Family Planning Association Life Membership

  • 1974 - 1974

    English translation of Abortion: the Bobigny affair: law on trial, (Wild and Wolley 1975)

  • 1975 - 1975

    Officially opened the first women’s refuge in Canberra, named after her

  • 1979 - 1979

    Returned to Israel

  • 1929 - 1932

    Councillor, Extra Metropolitan London Borough Council

  • 1987 - 1987

    Establishment of the Beryl Henderson Foundation, it offers an annual prize for an essay on a topic relevant to women’s studies or to the status of women

Published resources

Archival resources

  • ACT Heritage Library
    • Beryl Henderson at the women's 'tent embassy' today
    • Beryl Henderson, Maureen Worsley and Liz Goldring at the Women's Embassy at Parliament House protesting against abortion laws
  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Beryl Henderson, 1973-1992 [manuscript]
  • National Library of Australia
    • [Biographical cuttings on Beryl Henderson, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals]

Related entries

  • Founded
    • Beryl Women's Refuge (1975 - )
  • Membership
    • Abortion Law Reform Association