Woman Healy, Evelyn Myrtle

Artist, Community Activist and Peace activist

Written by Anne Beggs-Sunter, University of Ballarat

Born in 1912, Evelyn Healy was the daughter of Edgar Shaw, bank manager, and Beatrice Towl of Ballarat, Victoria. She studied law in Melbourne, then art at Swinburne and the Ballarat School of Mines, completing her studies in 1935. Although born into a wealthy family, her social conscience was awakened by the contrast between her own privileged background and the many unemployed people in Ballarat during the Depression. She left Ballarat to pursue her artistic and activist career in Melbourne in 1936.

Here, she became involved with the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), the peace movement and in designing anti-war banners for the Movement Against War and Fascism. In fact she played a key role in the rescue of the Eureka Flag from obscurity in 1938, which led to the Eureka Youth League taking the flag to prominence as an emblem of left-wing political and trade union protest. In the lead-up to World War Two, she was Convenor of the Richmond Branch of the Movement Against War and Fascism, and Secretary of the Collingwood Branch of the CPA in 1940.

In 1941 she married Charles Walters, an Australian member of the International Brigade who fought in the Spanish Civil War, and moved to Sydney, where her only child Max was born in 1942. She worked in munitions factories, and became one of the first female members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. She was involved in the fight for equal pay for women through membership of the Union's Sydney Political Committee. After the war she continued with factory work and some work as a commercial artist, and remained active as a communist organiser and member of the peace movement. She was divorced in 1954.

In 1962 she married Bill Armstrong, and began working as a secondary art teacher. She was instrumental in the formation of the Cabramatta and Districts Art Society, and remained passionately committed to the peace movement, nuclear disarmament, and the United Nations Association, which made her a life member. In 1984 she represented Sydney Artists for Nuclear Disarmament.

She married for a third time to labour activist Kevin Healy in 1986. Into her eighties, she continued her active involvement in peace, environmental and refugee issues. She retained her faith in Communist principles to the end. After the death of her husband in 2000, she retired to the Dalton Gardens Retirement Village in Gladesville, where she continued her involvement in art and social issues. She died at Gladesville in 2009.

Published Resources


  • Healy, Evelyn, Artist of the Left; a personal experience 1930s - 1990s, Sydney, New South Wales, 1994. Details

Journal Articles

  • Sunter, Anne, 'Something borrowed, something blue', Overland, no. 160, Spring 2000, pp. 69-71. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • 'Art Show', The Courier Mail (Ballarat, Victoria), 4 December 1935. Details

See also