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Emily Dobson

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Emily Dobson

Awarded for service to the Community

Born: 1842

Died: 1934

Entered on roll: 2005

The Lempriere motto is ‘Eagles do not bring forth doves’. All who knew Granny would understand that. But she was not all eagle - she was devout, loving and compassionate. Nevertheless there was no doubt about her energy and fighting qualities. It was a family joke that she was the President of nearly everything! (Family reminiscence of her granddaughter)

Emily Dobson was born at Port Arthur, the second youngest of 14 children, and educated at home by her father. At 25, she married Hobart lawyer Henry Dobson. Her husband embarked on a political career in 1891 as the MHA for Brighton, serving as Premier from 1892-94 and entering Federal Parliament in 1901.

Emily was a notable local leader of women’s organisations and prominent in charitable endeavours from the early 1890s. She had an enormous range of interests including the Women's Sanitary Association, which pressured local government for sanitary reform; Free Kindergarten Association; Blind, Deaf and Dumb Society; Brabazon Society; Union Jack Society; Child Welfare Association; Tasmanian Branch of the League of Nations and many others.

During the depression of 1892-95, Emily organised a soup kitchen that supplied up to 1000 meals a day. She was Head of the Ladies’ Committee for the Southport Settlement, which raised funds through fairs, entertainments and balls to assist the poor to become independent farmers.

Emily provided the impetus for many enduring community organisations as the founder of the Ministering Children's League; Alliance Francaise; Victorian Convalescent Home at Lindisfarne; Girls Guide Association; Lyceum Club; and the Tasmanian Sanatorium for Consumptives.

The 1890s was a time of change and increased activity for women, with many involved in charitable and public organisations. The Dobson family’s affluence enabled Emily's participation in a vast range of charities, assisted by household staff and a full-time private secretary. She represented Tasmanian women at international forums, with 33 trips to Britain and Europe and a further 67 away from the state.

Emily was a founding member and mainstay of the National Council of Women (NCW) for 30 years, serving as Tasmanian president from 1902 until her death. She was the first Australian president (1906-34), an international vice-president and Life Member. In recognition of her contribution, in 1919 the Tasmanian NCW established the Emily Dobson Philanthropic Prize for welfare organisations.

Emily’s influence was felt well beyond her home state. She represented the Australian Government at the 1899 Peace Conference at The Hague and was appointed by the Deakin Ministry to represent Australia at the International Women’s Suffrage Congress in Amsterdam. In 1930, Emily was appointed to the League of Nations Assembly for her valuable contribution to local, national and international councils.

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