. E-Bulletin – VALE YVONNE SMITH 1928-2022

Yvonne and her sister were raised by their father from an early age following the death of their mother. He believed in good education for girls and also provided a good diet from his garden. The family lived through the Great Depression and in later years, as their father travelled to Daylesford and Ballarat for his work, Yvonne and her sister lived with an aunt.

Yvonne’s working life was within the Trade Union movement and she was an ardent advocate of social justice issues particularly as they affected women in the workforce. One of her aunts, Freda, was a great influence on Yvonne. With her own trail blazing life – a divorcee, she raised her son alone and earned her living as a pianist accompanying the silent movies. Yvonne’s sense of ‘righting’ issues, learned from Aunt Freda, remained with her always and formed the basis of her lifelong activism.

Yvonne and her first husband Don lived in Sunshine where they had three sons: Seam, who died in infancy, Rod and Jeff. Don had returned from World War 2 an ardent communist, and Yvonne joined him in the cause. Together they studied political economy and Marxism. They also joined the New Theatre group that produced classic and significant plays and satires.

At this time Yvonne joined The Union of Australian Women (UAW) where she became a committed and active member right to the end. She was involved in many campaigns with UAW such as gas prices, contraception, and many women and children-related health issues.

Yvonne was widowed in 1957 when Rod and Jeff were 7 and 3. She accepted a job with Australian Railway Union (ARU) so she could raise and educate the boys. In 1966, Yvonne began working in the Meat Industry Union where she could concentrate on women and their conditions in the workplace.

After marrying again, Yvonne and Bill moved to Middle Park. This was when she joined the South Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as a viola player. She  also continued her work with the Unions and her commitment to the rights of women workers.

After retirement, Yvonne joined U3APP (University of the Third Age, Port Phillip) and was an office volunteer for many years.  She also participated in several classes where she could pursue her interest in philosophy and social justice issues. Yvonne loved music and was a founding member of the U3APP AllSorts Music Group and remained with them as a violinist and mandolin player until the end.

Yvonne was 94 on 1 May, 2022.  An amazing full and active life throughout.

Compiled by José Simsa with the help of Maurita Harney and Desleigh Kent.

Yvonne personally wrote this brief history of her life for "Spotlight On" a few years ago.