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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ogg, Margaret Ann (1863–1953)

by Betty Crouchley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Margaret Ann Ogg (1863-1953), electoral reformer, was born on 3 August 1863 in the manse, Ann Street, Brisbane, daughter of Charles Ogg, Presbyterian minister, and his wife Agnes, née McKellar. The fifth of ten children, only one of whom married, Maggie was educated at the manse in 'home accomplishments', which she regarded as mere frippery, and towards an ideal of public service. In 1882 she watched her father officiate at the wedding of Helen Mitchell, later Dame Nellie Melba. She was mission secretary of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, superintendent of its mission to sailors, and sub-editor of the Presbyterian Austral Star before beginning her crusade to achieve social reforms for women by involving them in politics.

Miss Ogg was organizing secretary of the Queensland Women's Electoral League from its inception in July 1903 until 1930 and, suspicious of radicalism, strove to maintain its anti-socialist stance. Refused transport and venues for meetings on early tours, she acquired a horse, a sulky and hurricane lamps, and addressed open-air gatherings, combating antagonism and occasionally paid hecklers with humour, brusque common sense and a devastating flair for repartee. She marshalled pressure on the Denham government to enact the Criminal Code Amendment Act 1913 and the Testators' Family Maintenance Act 1914, and her advice and organizing ability helped Irene Longman and many men to electoral success. She was the only woman executive-member of the National Political Council and her feminist convictions were reinforced when the male-dominated conservative parties proved 'too damned stubborn' to remain united. During Labor's ascendancy the league was less effective in State than Federal politics. Prime Minister Bruce found it in 1927 the most active organization of its type in Australia; this was largely due to the indomitable and much-respected Miss Ogg.

Other activities were directed towards increasing women's awareness of public affairs. She was foundation secretary of the Women's Progressive Club, State secretary of the National Council of Women, inaugural president of the Lyceum Club (Brisbane), organizing secretary of the women's central committee of the Queensland Deaf and Dumb Mission, and co-founder of the Queensland Bush Book Club. Her father's property investments and brothers' support enabled her to work mainly in an honorary capacity.

Frail in appearance, a firm believer in Victorian moral virtues, unashamedly old-fashioned and always dressing for dinner in silk and pearls, she was a poet and viola player and wrote on women's issues as 'Ann Dante' (from 'andante'). She helped her meteorologist brother John Cumming Ogg with Ogg's Weather Forecasts, and was a keen bushwalker. She enjoyed her reputation for slight eccentricity and the sobriquet 'the old battle-axe', the title of her friend Ernest Briggs's play which is based on her suffragette activities.

Miss Ogg died at Clayfield on 19 May 1953, and was cremated. The Q.W.E.L. established a Margaret Ogg memorial fund to assist women parliamentary candidates, and the Brisbane Women's Club, in whose rooms hangs a portrait by Yvonne Haysom, awards to schoolgirls the Margaret Ogg memorial prize for poetry.

Select Bibliography

  • Queenslander, 17 Nov 1927
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 20 May 1953
  • M. A. Ogg, Memories of Early Brisbane, as Sketched and Told to Ernest Briggs (typescript, no date, State Library of Queensland)
  • Queensland Women's Electoral League papers (State Library of Queensland).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Betty Crouchley, 'Ogg, Margaret Ann (1863–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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