LEADING LIGHTS: Isabella Skirving

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Helen Huxham and Isabella Skirving

Isabella Skirving was highly regarded as a ‘forceful and logical speaker’, a ‘born banner-bearer for Labor’, early president of the Shop Assistants Union, and represented at the State Labor conferences. Born in Rockhampton in 1867, by the war years Isabella Hyland had had long experience working alongside Emma Miller and Helen Huxham with the women’s unions, in the key Labor suffrage organisation, WEFA, and she was active in the Woolloongabba WWPO. She was another extremely capable peace-maker and organiser who seems to have relied on her oral communication skills rather than any writing capacities, as none of her written material appears to have survived. She was also a key figure in an intimate partnership with a senior Labor man. Alexander Skirving (1868-1935), whom she had married in 1907,  was president of the Industrial Council, stood for state office (unsuccessfully),  and later was a member of the Legislative Council with Joe Silver Collings (that went on to dissolve itself). He was a very successful long term alderman for the Brisbane City Council.  They had one son. When he died in 1935, Isabella stood for Labor pre-selection at a plebiscite in his former ward the following year, but was unsuccessful.

She was active in the Women’s Peace Army and the Anti-Conscription Coalition Committee. Isabella Skirving was the key organiser in raising funds for ‘distressed’ working people during the war, raising money through the workers’ distress fund art union.

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