Dame Mary Dora Daly (Mary MacMahon) 1896 – 1983 , Social Justice Activist

The daughter of a past pupil of Mary’s Mount, Mary Ellen McDonnell; Mary MacMahon, or May as she was known at school, was born on 24th August 1896 at Cootamundra, New South Wales. Her father, Thomas Patrick MacMahon, was a solicitor. Mary was educated at Loreto Normanhurst enrolling in 1906 and then as a boarder at Mary’s Mount in 1913 and 1914. She followed a family tradition of social service. Her father had been an alderman of the municipal council, justice of peace, deputy coroner and member of the local hospital committee.

During World War I, Mary volunteered for the Red Cross and the Voluntary Aid Detachments.

Mary married Dr. John Joseph Daly in 1923. His aunt, M. Berchmans Daly was the founder of St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Mary became honorary secretary of the Hawthorn-Kew auxiliary for St. Vincent’s Hospital, member of the executive committee of St. Anne’s Hall Hostel for Girls, president of the Loreto Past Pupil’s Association. The Loreto Past Pupils supported the Loreto Kindergarten in South Melbourne, and Mary published the children’s book, ‘Marie’s Birthday Party’ to raise funds for the kindergarten. While she was a member of the St. Vincent’s Hospital committee, £1300 was raised for the building of a new ward. In 1935 she was awarded a silver jubilee medal and in 1937 was appointed OBE.

During World War II she was the only woman on the executive of the Catholic Welfare Organisation and became president in 1941. The CWO established the first canteen in Melbourne for servicemen and women, raised money for welfare of Australian troops, sent food to the Food for Britain Appeal, knitted garments to the Allies and worded with the Prisoners of War Service Bureau and funded religious pastoral care for Catholics in active serve. In recognition for this work, Mary was appointed to CBE in 1949 and DBE in 1951.

In 1952 she was awarded the Papal Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.

Dame Mary became the first woman president of the Australian Catholic Relief and a foundation member of the4 Ryder-Cheshire Foundation. She was prominent in the Australian Red Cross, the Girl Guides Association, the National Heart Foundation, the Victorian Anti-Cancer Council and continued to write children’s books, one with illustration contributed by Hans Heysen, ‘Cinty and the Laughing Jackasses and Other Children’s Stories’; sales of which supported the Yooralla Hospital School.
Dame Mary died on 11 June 1983 at Fitzroy.

(Ref: The Australian Women’s Register |Australian Dictionary of Biography)

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