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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dougharty, Helen Elizabeth (Nellie) (1886–1968)

by Jeanette Roelvink

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Helen Elizabeth (Nellie) Dougharty (1886-1968), community worker, was born on 6 September 1886 at Launceston, Tasmania, and registered as Elizabeth Helen, one of five children of Alexander Evans, manufacturer, and his wife Elizabeth Grace, née Groom. Nellie was educated by a governess. On 8 December 1915 at St John's Church, Launceston, she married Frederick George Dougharty, a bank officer from Victoria. In 1918 he was killed in action at Ypres, France. Nellie's involvement in returned soldiers' projects started later that year when she was appointed as organizer of a committee to raise money for the erection and maintenance of Launceston Anzac Hostel and War Veterans' Home.

In 1920 Mrs Dougharty was one of four responsible for the distribution of money and food to distressed diggers and families. She also ran, for two years, a soup kitchen and food depot at Launceston. In 1925 she visited Queensland to adopt a daughter. An inaugural member of the board of management of Broadland House Church of England Girls' Grammar School, Launceston, Nellie was secretary and literature officer of the Mothers' Union from 1928. From 1929 to the 1930s she was a stalwart of the Australian Women's National League. While an executive-member of the Country Women's Association she was responsible for planning exhibitions and festivals. She formed the Launceston branch of the Women's League of Remembrance in the late 1940s.

Dougharty was a committee member of the Launceston 50000 League and it was her suggestion that trees should be planted along the Midland Highway between Launceston and Hobart and dedicated to Tasmanian pioneers; the first of the 8500 trees donated by W. A. G. Walker was planted in April 1935. She also proposed the formation of the Tasmanian Society to preserve historic buildings, organized the erection of the Paterson memorial at George Town, and in the 1940s produced two spectacular plays involving 300 children. The balls Nellie devised for adults and children at the Albert Hall became a Launceston institution.

During World War II she was involved with the Elphin Camp canteen and was a leader of the Australian Comforts Fund in Tasmania. She started Friday stalls at the Anzac Hostel and a Custom House canteen for service recruits, was a committee-member of the A.C.F. leave club and was convenor of the Australian Imperial Force ball. A member of the emergency service of the Australian Red Cross Society, she became an official of the Red Cross executive in 1940. She also formed the Church of England Club for Servicemen in Northern Tasmania and the Voluntary War Widows' Salvage Committee. Appointed Launceston City Council delegate to the State Evacuation Committee in 1942, she was a member of the Civil Defence Legion. Dougharty organized A.I.F. luncheons at the Albert Hall and comfort coin collections.

Petite and pretty, quietly efficient, forceful in action yet reluctant to accept praise, she was 'one of the foremost women organisers in Northern Tasmania'—though she managed mostly on a pension. She enjoyed gardening and sewing. In 1955 she moved to Hobart and in April 1968 to Brisbane, where her daughter then lived. Nellie Dougharty died on 8 August 1968 in Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital, Brisbane, and was buried in Pinnaroo lawn cemetery, Aspley, with Anglican rites. Her daughter survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Roelvink, Small Feet Walking (Hob, 2002)
  • Tasmanian Historical Studies, 7, no 1, 2000, p 81
  • Examiner (Launceston), 9 Aug 1968, p 9
  • Mercury (Hobart), 9 Aug 1968, p 6
  • family papers (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jeanette Roelvink, 'Dougharty, Helen Elizabeth (Nellie) (1886–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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