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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dodd, Beatrice Olive Victoria (1897–1968)

by A. G. Thomson Zainu'ddin

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Beatrice Olive Victoria Dodd (1897-1968), social worker, was born on 10 June 1897 at Kew, Melbourne, second child of English-born parents Harry Dodd, manager, and his wife Rose Isabella, née Hoadley. Olive was educated (1911-15) at Methodist Ladies' College, Kew, and was an active member of the Old Collegians' Club for the remainder of her life, serving as editor (1922) of its magazine, secretary (1923-27) and president (1932). A non-resident member of Queen's College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1919; Dip.Ed., 1920; M.A., 1921), she was foundation secretary (1920) of the 16 Club which was formed by women graduates who had entered the university in 1916; she was an active member of the club from 1920 to 1935 and, after leave of absence, from 1952 to 1968.

Having taught briefly at a small private girls' school, in 1929-30 Dodd visited Britain and the Netherlands. In 1933-34 she was one of the earliest students to take the new diploma of social studies course at the University of Melbourne. The Free Kindergarten Union appointed her in 1936 as its first social worker: she was employed part time that year and full time in 1937-40. At the inaugural biennial conference of the Australian Association for Pre-School Child Development in 1939, she presented 'a masterly survey' of the duties and opportunities of the social worker in the kindergarten.

In 1940 Dodd completed a transport course, including vehicle maintenance, and drove the Myer delivery van around the city and its suburbs. After taking a position as a social worker at the Lady Gowrie Child Centre, she enlisted in the Australian Women's Army Service on 5 September 1942. Commissioned lieutenant in April next year, she served in No.5 A.W.A.S. Administrative Cadre, then, as welfare officer for Victoria, interviewed army servicewomen at the time of their discharge and supervised their return to civilian life. She was promoted captain in November 1944 and transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 26 June 1946.

Resuming civilian life, Dodd worked each Wednesday at the Mews, Government House, with the Women of the University Save the Children Fund, and continued her interest and involvement in the F.K.U. as a member of its executive from 1951 until her death. As president (1955-59), she dealt capably with ministers, heads of departments and increasingly complex financial affairs. It was 'her anxious task to contemplate the possible disbandment of the Union and her triumph to have so led her executive and the local committees that together they faced and overcame the financial crisis and enabled the Union to carry on' as an independent body.

Miss Dodd died on 2 May 1968 at Kew and was cremated. In the words of an obituary, 'she was a very good friend to many people and was always ready to give her time, her knowledge and her help to anyone who wanted it'.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Gardiner, The Free Kindergarten Union of Victoria 1908-80 (Melb, 1982)
  • History of Education Review, 19 no 2, 1990
  • MLC, Old Collegian, 1922, 1923, Oct 1929, Apr 1930, Dec 1940
  • Age (Melbourne), 10 Apr 1929
  • Argus (Melbourne), 13 July 1943
  • Herald (Melbourne), 30 Mar 1955.

Citation details

A. G. Thomson Zainu'ddin, 'Dodd, Beatrice Olive Victoria (1897–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 14 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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