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Clarke, Jessie Deakin (1914 - 2014)

Born
28 December 1914
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died
11 November 2014
Occupation
Social worker
Alternative Names
  • Brookes, Jessie (maiden name)

Summary

Jessie Clarke, daughter of Ivy Brookes and grand daughter of Alfred Deakin, trained in social work and was professionally active in the Port Melbourne, Victoria, area. She was studied in New York in the 1930s, was a junior delegate to the League of Nations Union in Geneva and an activist on behalf of refugees. She founded the the Nappy Wash delivery service in the period after the Second World War.

Details

Jessie Clarke, the granddaughter of Alfred Deakin (Australian Prime Minister 1903-1910) and the daughter of Ivy (née Deakin) and Herbert Brookes, enrolled at the University of Melbourne in 1931. She graduated with an Arts/Social Work degree and continued her studies in New York before the Australian government offered her a position as junior delegate to the League of Nations Union in Geneva.

Later, with the war imminent, she returned to Australia and became president of the Victorian International Refugee Emergency Council. A few days after the outbreak of World War II she married William Anthony Francis Clarke, the son of Sir Frank Clarke, MLC, whom she had earlier taken to task for his reported remarks in the Legislative Council about 'rat-faced refugees'. Clarke worked with the Lord Mayor's Patriotic and Welfare Fund as a voluntary social worker dealing with the problems of army wives and relatives at first in Sydney, where her husband was stationed, and later in Melbourne.

In 1946 the Clarkes decided to start a napkin wash service in response to the post war baby boom. Nappie Wash, which grew to become the second largest such service in the world, was largely a family affair, with 13 relatives and friends providing the initial capital. At various stages of its history members of the family have been directors of the company which was sold in 1975.

Clarke, whose husband died in 1953, was a foundation member of the Australian Assistance Plan set up by Prime Minister Whitlam. She was involved also with community health groups such as the Abbeyfield Society, Melbourne-South Yarra Group, Broadmeadows Community Health Centre and the Melbourne District Health Council.

Sources used to compile this entry: Gladwin, Frances, 'The Jessie Clarke Collection', State Library of Victoria News, vol. 2, no. 4, 1998, p. 4; Tipping, Marjorie, 'Jessie Clarke: Founder of Nappie Wash', in Lake, Marilyn and Kelly, Farley (eds), Double time : women in Victoria - 150 years, Penguin, Ringwood, Vic., 1985, pp. 408-419; The Age, Tributes & Celebrations, Jessie Deakin Clarke, http://tributes.theage.com.au/obituaries/theage-au/obituary.aspx?pid=173150205 (accessed 31 July 2015).

Related entries

Archival resources

National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room

  • [Biographical cuttings on Jessie Clarke, managing director of Nappie Wash Ltd]; National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room. Details

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Interview with Jessie Clarke, granddaughter of Alfred Deakin [sound recording] / various interviewers, 1996 - 2001, ORAL TRC 3465; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection

  • Clarke, Jessie Papers, c. 1900 - c. 1990, MS 13268; Clarke, Jessie Deakin (1914 - 2014); State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details

Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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