Woman Hutchison, Ruby Florence

Consumer Activist and Politician
Alternative Names
  • Herbert, Ruby Florence

Written by Kate Moore, Australian National University

Ruby Hutchison (1892-1974) was a firebrand West Australian politician and community activist who was active in the early stages of the Australian Consumers' Association (now Choice). She was the third in a family of ten children. When Ruby was 4 years old the family moved to the Murchison goldfields in West Australia. They lived first at Cue, then at Day Dawn, setting finally in Meekatharra. Ruby's main schooling was at the Dominican Convent, Cue.

In March 1909 Ruby married, and subsequently had four children, but was divorced at the end of 1928. Ruby then earned an income by taking in boarders and by dressmaking. She remarried in 1938, and after her children had grown up attended business college and the University of Western Australia's summer schools where she studied public administration, public speaking, psychology and languages.

By her own account, Ruby joined the Labor Party when she was 16, and in May 1954 she won a seat in the Legislative Council, becoming the first woman member of the State's Upper House, and remained the only woman member until her retirement in May 1971. Her most forceful rhetoric was directed at the property franchise for Council elections. In October 1962 she was the second woman member ever to be suspended from either House of the Western Australian Parliament, after refusing to withdraw her remark that she was ashamed to be a member of such an undemocratic chamber.

Ruby had a strong social conscience and was an active community worker. She founded the Western Australia Epilepsy Association, slow learning childrens' groups, and was an active member of the Mental Health Association. As a woman who had fed and raised a family she was acutely aware of the effect of price rises on family budgets, the effect of a poor quality product, and of the exploitation of ordinary workers by companies and industries, and she raised these issues in a number of speeches in the Legislative Council (Baldry, 93).

In the 1950s, after a long record of demanding consumer and women's rights, Ruby began to think about a national organisation of consumers. In the East, a small group of her friends were thinking along similar lines. Ruby was in touch with the newly formed UK group, Consumers' Association and the Consumers' Union of the US who were supportive. She approached her friends in Sydney about forming an Australian association. The Australian Consumers' Association was born in Sydney in 1959. (Baldry p 94, 95).

Ruby Hutchison died on 17 December 1974 at Shenton Park and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. She was survived by two sons and three daughters from her first marriage.

Published Resources


  • Baldry, E, 'The Development of the Health Consumer Movement and its Effect on Value Changes and Health Policy in Australia', PhD thesis, The University of New South Wales (UNSW), 1992. Details

Online Resources