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Quirk, Mary Lilly May (1880 - 1952)

7 December 1880
Coonamble, New South Wales, Australia
4 March 1952
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Deal, Mary (maiden name)
  • Kelly, Mary (former married name)


Mary Quirk was the first Labor woman elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and was an assiduous local member until deselected in 1950. She was first elected in 1939 during the Balmain by election and was re-elected in 1941, 1944 and 1947. In 1950 Mary contested the seat again, this time as an Independent, but failed.


Mary Quirk was educated at Rozelle Superior Public School. She worked as a domestic servant, until she married John Kelly on 28 September 1898, in Balmain, Sydney. They had a son and three daughters before he died in 1926. She then worked as a shop assistant and joined the Shop Assistants' Union of NSW.

On 9 February 1927 she married John Quirk, Labor MLA for Rozelle (1917-20, 1927-30) and Balmain (1920-27 and 1930-38). After he died in 1938, she was elected at the by election for Balmain in 1939. She and John Quirk were strong supporters of Lang. She was the first Labor woman and the second woman to be elected to the Legislative Assembly, and the galleries were filled with women on the day she was sworn in. She was especially concerned with the interests of housewives and industrial workers.

She lost preselection after two contested ballots in 1950 and was defeated by the official ALP candidate when she stood as an independent in June 1950. She became a director of the Sunshine Home for children. When she died, the premier James McGirr said that she had 'added a special dignity to our Parliament'.

Sources used to compile this entry: 'HERstory: Australian Labor Women in Federal, State and Territory Parliaments 1925-1994', Townsville, Qld., 1994; Blackley, Leanne L., 'Quirk, Mary Lilly May (1880 - 1952)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 2006,

Annette Alafaci

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