Tribute by Lynn Beaton


Edna Ryan
1904 - 1997

It was very sad to hear of the death of Edna Ryan who in life was such an inspiration to all those fighting for justice and equality. She was a lifelong labour activist and feminist and a role-model for a whole generation of women, who had few live models.

She fought for the rights of women all her life, during her period in the Communist Party from 1920 to 1945, in the struggle for equal pay after that and then in WEL which was founded in the early seventies.

In her feminism Edna understood the importance of class. Her work on the history of women's pay in Australia provided a basis for the work which has since taken place. The book which she wrote with Ann Conlon, 'Gentle Invaders' was ice-breaking in this country and was enormously influential to me. My copy, with the torn purple dust-cover, has been pulled out of the shelves hundreds of times, to check that, confirm this. She believed passionately that emancipation for women must start with their economic independence and this spurred me to work for years in trying to achieve that goal.

When I was at the Working Women's Centre, Edna made herself a resource for us to discuss with, and to learn from. And she never forgot to send messages and sometimes even small gifts of support and congratulations whenever we launched a campaign or had a victory.

Edna Ryan was one of the strongest influences on my life, not because I knew her well, but because she had a clarity and a purpose which was inspirational.

Our condolences to her family. She will be sorely missed, but her work and her memory will live to inspire future generations of women and men.