Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content


  • Putting Skirts on the Sacred Benches: Women Candidates for the New South Wales Parliament

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

Frewin, Elizabeth (1892 - 1955)

14 November 1892
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
21 January 1955
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Frewin, Bessie (preferred name)
  • O'Neill, Bessie (maiden name)


A passionate activist for women, Elizabeth (Bessie) Frewin was one of the earliest women candidates for all levels of government. She was an ALP candidate in the House of Representatives for Warringah in 1934 and 1940 and for the North Sydney Council in 1938, 1941 and 1948. Bessie was also a Lang Labor candidate in the 1947 elections to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for Bondi.


Bessie Frewin was born in Newcastle in 1892, the sixth child in a family of nine. She left school at 13 and went into domestic service. Her interest in politics and social justice began then and continued throughout her life.

She married George Henry Gibbons Frewin on 17 December 1919, in St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, and they had two daughters and two sons. They owned and ran a Ham and Beef shop in Lavender Bay until the land was resumed for the building of the Harbour Bridge. Later, they lived at Cammeray.
In her election pamphlet for the Council Election of 1948, Bessie Frewin stressed her long held beliefs in education, the abolition of slums, the provision of more parks and playgrounds and the preservation of the harbour waterfront for public use.

Sources used to compile this entry: Interview Yvonne Richardson, daughter, November 2004; Oral history interview with Bessie Paterson and Leah-Yvonne Richardson, by Lianne Hall, 29 September 1995, held Stanton Library, North Sydney, NSW.

Annette Alafaci

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124