- Honour Roll
The unionist Doris McRae who was born in Victoria 1894 and died in 1988, was regarded as a significant leader of Victorian teachers for more than three decades.
She taught in Victorian secondary schools becoming the first woman principal of a secondary school when she was appointed head of the Flemington Girls School. An active unionist, she was first elected to the council representing Secondary Women in 1935, becoming Vice President in 1947. The Australian Teachers' Federation adopted the policy of equal pay for men and women in 1940 but Doris, as a Victorian delegate, noted that the women members she represented realised that having such a policy was no guarantee of the whole union working to attain that objective.
During World War II she was active in encouraging her colleagues to greater efforts, doing innovative work on the provision of after-school programs wherever Victorian women had been drawn into the work force as part of the war effort.
At this time Australian teachers' organisations began to affiliate with state trades and labor councils and to seek membership of the ACTU. Doris championed the building of bridges between teachers and the wider community. She was convinced of the importance of wider collaborative activities to teachers engaged in a struggle to improve conditions in schools.
An anti-feminist campaign in 1948 resulted in Doris being prevented from becoming president of the VTU. However, during the 1950s, as women teachers began to demand permanency, Doris' leadership was once again appreciated as she played her part in ensuing the passage of the Teaching Service (Married Women's) Act (1956).
While she was a target for some critics of teacher unionism because of her alleged 'leftism', her contemporaries acknowledged her selfless work for all teachers. The motion honouring her for her work as Vice-President noted 'She never allowed her own view to interfere with the work of the union'. Doris McRae was a founding member of the Union of Australian Women.
On her death, a friend wrote: 'Doris McRae was a woman who knew peace and human rights could be achieved throughout the world. She never ceased to play her part.'
Reviewed 26 May 2022