Mildred Muscio: women’s rights activist, principal, philosopher, social reformer, welfare worker, leader.
Florence Mildred Fry was born at Copeland near Gloucester in 1882. Her parents were Jane McLennan, assistant teacher and Charles Fry who conducted the post office.1 Copeland was bustling at that time with the discovery of gold in the 1870s attracting thousands of prospectors. Mildred went to school in Sydney and graduated from Sydney University with a MA in 1905. She was principal of Brighton College for Girls2 before moving to England where she married Cambridge Professor Bernard Muscio, born at Glenthorne near Taree.3
The couple moved back to Sydney where Mildred became Federal President of the National Council of Women and represented Australia overseas.4 She challenged and empowered women to take their place in the workforce, parliament, and universities.5
During the 1930s Depression, married female teachers were dismissed in the name of economics. Mildred advocated for the right of women to make their own living and careers.6 In her role with the National Council of Women she set up sewing depots to provide work for unemployed women to earn a living. These were closed down in 1936,7 the same year her husband tragically died.8
“Powerful traditions still imprison the spirit of many women without their recognising it.”
When Mildred was awarded an OBE in 1938, her commitment to social reform in women’s and children’s interests was noted. She was the only female member of a Royal Commission on children, and with John Curtin submitted a report calling for the immediate introduction of a child endowment scheme.9
Mildred died in 1964 and in 1978 ‘Muscio Place’ was named in her honour in Chisholm, ACT.10 She was persuasive, logical and sympathetic in her thoughts and words to improve the position of women and children in Australia.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Gloucester Advocate, 9 March 1921, 2.
2 Meredith Foley and Gillian Fulloon, Australian Dictionary of Biography ‘Muscio, Florence Mildred (1882-1964)’.
3 NSW BDM, Birth Index No. 23663/1887.
4 SMH, 27 February 1931, 4.
5 SMH, 4 April 1931, 6.
6 The Sun, 11 December 1932, 26.
7 The Sun, 27 April 1936, 9.
8 SMH, 28 May 1926, 12.
9 SMH, 9 June 1938, 20.
10 NSW BDM, Death Index No. 33700/1964. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. Special. 8 Feb 1978 [Issue No. S24], 13.