Woman Martin, Jean Isobel (1923 - 1979)

21 June 1923
East Malvern, Victoria, Australia
25 September 1979
Mona Vale, New South Wales, Australia
Educator and Sociologist
Alternative Names
  • Craig, Jean Isobel (Maiden)

Written by Katy Richmond, LaTrobe University

Jean Martin (nee Craig) was a professor, pioneer sociologist, researcher, public intellectual and educator. During her academic career, which spanned teaching and research appointments in seven Australian universities, she published four books and more than twenty reports and papers and made a highly significant contribution to a number of government committees, welfare agencies, research institutes and professional bodies. Her influence on the development of sociology and the social sciences in Australia was immense.

Born in Melbourne in 1923, Martin completed her education in Sydney, graduating in anthropology from the University of Sydney in 1943, gaining the University Medal and first class honours on completion of her MA thesis in 1945. Appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney in 1945, her teaching was eclectic in range and indicated a moving away from traditional anthropological topics towards the emerging discipline of sociology. She lectured to a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate students including child welfare officers, housing officers, town and country planning students as well as those studying tropical medicine. In the Department she was heavily influenced by Professor A. P. Elkin who shepherded his staff and postgraduate students into academic positions and research appointments while monitoring and encouraging their academic writing. Jean was a key researcher for Elkin's Australian Institute of Sociology, writing papers on rural housing, rural migration, soldiers' settlements, the adaptation of country girls to urban life and the working lives of women factory workers. Elkin encouraged a sociology grounded in the social problems of Australian society of the times. What Jean added was a belief that participation in social action is a vital part of the research process.

From 1947-1948 Martin studied at the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago, the most prestigious sociology department in the United States and then spent three months in London, studying at the London School of Economics. Though this was a relatively short period of study overseas it was vitally important both for Jean's own understanding of sociology and for her future career. On her return she moved to the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra where she worked as a research assistant before beginning her PhD, studying refugee settlers living in the Goulburn area of New South Wales and combining participant observation with open-ended interviews, staying in a migrant hostel for a six month period while she completed her fieldwork.

On completing her doctorate Martin was appointed as a Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the ANU, but a move to Sydney with her husband, academic Alan Martin, and the subsequent birth of two children disrupted her career and, although she continued her research and writing, she was 42 before she found a full-time academic position. Finally, in 1966, she became Foundation Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University, an appointment made in concert with the appointment of her husband Allan as Foundation Professor of History. As professor, Jean took responsibility for major decisions but consulted with senior staff on important matters and delegated as much university committee work as she reasonably could. She saw her role as a golden opportunity to develop sociology in Australia, encouraging and nurturing young academics entering the field. Long after she left La Trobe University in 1974 (following a serious illness that she had revealed to very few of her colleagues) she continued not only a substantial level of postgraduate supervision but also her detailed critiques of her former colleagues' draft publications. Another high priority for Martin was the development of The Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand (known then as SAANZ, later, in 1988, becoming TASA). Although she was not directly involved in 1963 when SAANZ was formally established, she played an important behind-the-scenes role and in 1969, agreed to become President. On leaving La Trobe, Jean became a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology, IAS, ANU where she remained until her death in September 1979.

Writing at a time when the prevalent view was that Australia was British to the core, Martin argued that Australian society was becoming increasingly multicultural. Her sustained efforts to support policy development and grounded social science research set her apart from many academics of her day. From the early 1960s until her death in 1979, she worked on a number of government committees. She was also a feminist, and played a considerable role in the publication Girls, School and Society (1975) chairing the committee which sought data for this publication. In 1971 Jean was elected as a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences of Australia. After her death in 1979 SAANZ established its biennial prize, the Jean Martin Award, for the best doctoral thesis in Australia on a topic relevant to Jean's research interests, honouring her contribution to the discipline of sociology and also her support for the association. An intellectual history of Jean Martin's life and work is currently being prepared by Peter Beilharz, Trevor Hogan and Sheila Shaver.

Published Resources


  • Martin, Jean, The Migrant Presence: Australian Responses, 1947 - 1977, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1978. Details
  • Martin, Jean I., Refugee Settlers: A Study of Displaced Persons in Australia, Australian National University (ANU) E Press, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1965. Details
  • Martin, Jean I., Community and Identity: Refugee Groups in Adelaide, Australian National University (ANU) E Press, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1972. Details

Edited Books

  • Encel, Sol (ed.), The ethnic dimension : papers on ethnicity and pluralism /‚Äč by Jean Martin ; edited with an introduction by S. Encel, Martin, Jean I., George Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1981. Details

Online Resources

See also