Woman Duguid, Phyllis Evelyn

Campaigner, Child welfare advocate, Feminist, Humanitarian and Women's rights activist

Written by Rani Kerin, Australian National University

Born in 1904, Phyllis Duguid was the third child of Reverend Frank Lade, Methodist minister, and Lillian Frances Lade. She attended Miss Henderson's school for girls and Methodist Ladies College, Adelaide. In 1922 she won a bursary to attend the University of Adelaide. She studied classics, English language and literature and later worked as a tutor in the School of English. From 1927 she taught at the Presbyterian Girls College, Adelaide resigning in 1930 when she married Charles Duguid, surgeon.

A strong believer in equality for women, in 1944 Duguid published The Economic Status of the Homemaker. Arguing that 'comparatively few women have realised that the political emancipation of women can never be complete so long as a large proportion of them are economically dependent and therefore not really free agents' (Mail, 21 April 1945), she put a strong case for paying homemakers a regular wage. An executive member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and Women's Non-Party Political Association, Duguid was also a long serving member of the South Australian government's Children's Welfare and Public Relief Board.

From the mid 1930s onwards, Duguid joined her husband in pleading the cause of the Aborigines. While her husband went on to become one of Australia's best known campaigners for Aboriginal rights, Duguid made her own important contribution. Focusing mainly, although not exclusively, on the rights of Aboriginal and mixed descent women and girls, she became a leading proponent of Aboriginal advancement. In 1938 she initiated and presided over the League for the Protection and Advancement of Aboriginal and Half-Caste Women, later the Aborigines Advancement League of South Australia. Over the next two decades her home was transformed into a place where Aboriginal people were welcome to visit and to stay, where a sympathetic ear was guaranteed, and where it was known that action against discrimination would be taken. Duguid served as foster-mother to several Aboriginal children, including one who lived with the family for six years. Appointed OAM in 1987 for services to Aboriginal welfare, she died in 1993.

Archival Resources

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Papers of Charles Duguid, 1884 - 1986, MS 5068; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

State Library of South Australia

  • Aborigines Advancement League: Summary Record, 1938 - 2008, SRG 250; State Library of South Australia. Details

Published Resources


  • Duguid, Phyllis, The Economic Status of the Homemaker, Hunkin, Ellis and King, Adelaide, South Australia, 1944. Details
  • Kerin, Rani, Doctor Do-Good: Charles Duguid and Aboriginal Advancement, 1930s-1970s, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, Victoria, 2011. Details

Newspaper Articles

See also