Three early champions for women’s and children’s rights will soon be remembered with a decision by the City of Sydney to name new parks and public spaces in their honour.
Publisher and leader for women’s suffrage Louisa Lawson, social reform campaigner Nita McCrae, and pioneer for early childhood education Frances Newton, have all left a lasting legacy.
Council has endorsed the naming of three public spaces after these important campaigners:
- Louisa Lawson Place – a public place bound by Kent Street, Sussex Street and Napoleon Street
- Nita McCrae Park – a new pocket park in Millers Point
- Frances Newton Reserve – a new pocket park to be constructed at Palmer Street, Darlinghurst
“We are proud to honour three strong women who championed the rights of women, children and the most vulnerable in our communities,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
“Each of these women had a vision of making Sydney and Australia a fairer and more equal society and their hard work towards this goal continues to benefit our communities today.”
Suffragette and newspaper owner Louisa Lawson (1848–1920) was a noted social reformer, writer and publisher. Born in Guntawang, near Mudgee, Louisa relocated to Sydney in the late 19th century where she founded the influential Dawn magazine, which covered women’s issues in Australia and overseas.
The magazine was a commercial success and Louisa expanded her printing plant to employ 10 women. Louisa resisted pressure from the NSW Typographical Association, which refused membership to women, to dismiss her printers.
“Louisa Lawson was a champion for all women across the nation and was credited with launching the campaign for women’s suffrage in Australia,” the Lord Mayor said.
“As founder of the Dawn Club in Sydney, Louisa provided a forum for women to participate in discussion and debate, and gain experience in public speaking – and she achieved this while independently raising five children, including her son Henry, who became one of Australia’s best loved poets.”
In 1891, Louisa was elected to the Council of the Womanhood Suffrage League of NSW.
Council has given in-principle support to name a public space bounded by Kent Street, Sussex Street and Napoleon Street “Louisa Lawson Place” – a site near the location of the former Dawn magazine office.
Nita McCrae (1925–1995) was a local resident and founding member of the Millers Point Resident Action Group, who campaigned against the state government’s plans to relocate residents and redevelop The Rocks in the 1970s. Nita McCrae enlisted the assistance of the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation to impose a green ban on the precinct and bring works to a halt.
Council has given endorsement for a new pocket park in Millers Point to be named Nita McCrae Park, recognising this work.
“Nita McCrae mobilised the local community to protest against redevelopment of this important historical area, and was an inspiring figure in the struggle to protect The Rocks,” the Lord Mayor said.
Located in front of the Abraham Mott Hall and Harry Jensen Centre, the pocket park is on the site of a former bus layover and tram terminus.
Influential early childhood educator Frances Newton will have a new pocket park named after her at the site of a former kindergarten in Darlinghurst.
From 1902 to 1905, Frances Newton served as principal of the Sydney Kindergarten Training College and was responsible for expanding free kindergartens in Sydney.
The former kindergarten was built for the Kindergarten Union in the 1920s and was previously named in her honour. This naming continues that commemorative tradition.
“As well as honouring the legacy of Frances Newton and the kindergarten movement, this new pocket park will provide a playful space for local children,” the Lord Mayor said.
Construction of the pocket park is due to start early next year. It will include a nature play area, open lawns and garden beds. The community garden will provide space to grow fresh produce and meet neighbours.
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Image: Nita McCrae, image courtesy of Pat Fiske