Skip to main content

Jessie Street

1889 – 1970

Jessie Street (née Lillingston, 1889-1970), feminist and activist, had a 50-year career encompassing achievements on landmark issues such as family planning, equal pay and equal employment. Becoming interested in women's issues in her twenties, in the interwar years she intervened in unemployment relief, the plight of Jewish refugees, and Indigenous rights. She stood unsuccessfully as a Labor Party candidate in the federal elections of 1939 and 1946; in between, in 1945, she was the sole Australian woman delegate to the founding of the United Nations, where she pressed for women's rights. Street first visited Russia in 1938, and was president of the Australian Russian Society from 1946; as the Cold War developed, she was (falsely) accused of communist sympathies. In 1949, expelled from the Labor party, she stood unsuccessfully as an independent candidate. Street's husband, Sir Kenneth Street, was Chief Justice of NSW from 1950, and for much of the 1950s she worked for the World Peace Council in London. Her son, Laurence, became Chief Justice of New South Wales in 1974.

Updated 2018