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Heagney, Muriel Agnes (1885 - 1974)

31 December 1885
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
14 May 1974
St Kilda, Victoria, Australia
Political candidate, Trade unionist and Writer


Muriel Heagney worked tirelessly for the labour movement in various capacities during her long life. Her major commitment, however, was to achieve equal pay for women workers. Born into a labour family, she joined the Richmond branch of the Political Labour Council (later the Australian Labor Party - ALP) in 1906, and was a delegate to the Women's Central Organising Committee in 1909. Other positions she held included: membership of the Victorian central executive of the Australian Labor Party from 1926-1927; secretary of the Women's Central Organising Committee; and ex officio member of the party's central executive in 1955. She was a founding member of the Council of Action for Equal Pay which was established in Sydney in 1937 under the auspices of the New South Wales branch of the Federated Clerks' Union and was secretary for most of its existence. It disbanded in 1948. She returned to Victoria in 1950 and continued to maintain her union and political interests into the 1960s. Her publications include Are women taking men's jobs?, (1935), Equal pay for the sexes, (1948), Arbitration at the crossroads, (1954). She died in poverty in St Kilda in May 1974.


Heagney made two attempts to enter an Australian parliament. She made her first attempt in 1933 when she stood as an ALP candidate in the by-election for the state Legislative Assembly seat of Boroondara, which was held on 29 April. This was and remains a conservative seat. She was placed second in a field of seven on the primary vote, with 20.54 per cent of the vote, but on the two-party preferred count she was placed third, with 24.36 per cent of the vote, after the winner Trevor Oldham (United Australia Party) and James Nettleton, another United Australia Party candidate. This was a creditable performance as the ALP had not fielded a candidate for that seat in the 1932 state election.
She made her second attempt in 1956 at the age of 70, when she stood unsuccessfully for ALP pre-selection to the Australian Senate.

Sources used to compile this entry: Bremner, J., 'Heagney, Muriel Agnes (1885 - 1974)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,; Reid, Elizabeth,'The women we ignore', Refractory Girl, no 6, June 1974, p 9. Telephone communication with Paul Thornton-Smith, Senior Research and Information Officer, Victorian Electoral Commission, 2008-07-10.

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Archival resources

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • Jean Fleming Arnot - personal and professional papers, 1890-1995, 1890 - 1995, MLMSS 3147 ADD-ON 2070/1-15; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection

  • Heagney, Muriel A. (Muriel Agnes) papers [manuscript] 1885-1974, 1936 - 1968, MS 9106; Heagney, Muriel Agnes (1885 - 1974); State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details

Rosemary Francis

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