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Jessie Mary Grey Street (née Lillingston, later Lady Street; 18 April 1889 – 2 July 1970) was an Australian suffragette and an extensive campaigner for peace and human rights. A maverick among Australia's conservative establishment, she was dubbed Red Jessie by her detractors in the right-wing media for her efforts to promote diplomacy with the USSR and to ease tensions during the Cold War. She was nevertheless ardent until death in her support for the progressive cause.[1]

Jessie Street
Jessie Mary Grey Lillingston

(1889-04-18)18 April 1889
Died2 July 1970(1970-07-02) (aged 81)
Nationality Australia
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
Spouse(s)Sir Kenneth Whistler Street
ChildrenSir Laurence Whistler Street


Early lifeEdit

A sketch of Jessie age 21 while at the University of Sydney Women's College

Jessie Mary Grey Street was born on 18 April 1889 at Ranchi, Bihar, India, the eldest child of Charles Alfred Gordon Lillingston (great-grandson of Sir George Grey, 1st Baronet)[2] and his wife Mabel Harriet Ogilvie, daughter of Australian politician Edward David Stuart Ogilvie, MLC.[3]


She was a key figure in Australian and international political life for over 50 years, from the women's suffrage struggle in England to the removal of Australia's constitutional discrimination against Aboriginal people in 1967.

Jessie was Australia's first and only female delegate to the establishment of the United Nations, where she played a key role alongside the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt in ensuring that gender was included with race and religion as a non-discrimination clause in the United Nations Charter.[4]

She is recognised both in Australia and internationally for her activism in human rights, social justice and peace. The Jessie Street Centre, the Jessie Street Trust, the Jessie Street National Women's Library and Jessie Street Gardens exist in her honour.[5]

Street made two bids to enter the Australian House of Representatives as a member of the Australian Labor Party. In 1943, she ran against United Australia Party frontbencher Eric Harrison in the Eastern Suburbs seat of Wentworth, and nearly defeated him amid that year's massive Labor landslide. She actually led the field on the first count, and only the preferences of conservative independent Bill Wentworth allowed Harrison to survive. She sought a rematch against Harrison in 1946, and lost by a wider margin.


By wedding Chief Justice Sir Kenneth Whistler Street, Jessie married into Australia's prominent Street dynasty. Her father-in-law thus became Chief Justice Sir Philip Whistler Street, and she would in turn give birth to the future Chief Justice Sir Laurence Whistler Street. The Streets have been at the fore of the New South Wales legal, political and military establishments since the 19th Century.


  1. ^ "Dynasties: Street".
  2. ^ National Archives of Australia
  3. ^ Australian Women's Archives Project
  4. ^ National Library of Australia
  5. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)


Further readingEdit

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