Lillie Goodisson

Lillie Elizabeth Goodisson (1860-1947), promoter of family planning, was born at Holyhead, Wales, daughter of Frances Elizabeth (born Roberts) and John Richard Price, physician. She trained as a nurse and when aged nineteen she married Lawford David Evans, physician, in London. They emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand, where their two children were born.

By 1895, Lillie Evans had moved to Melbourne where she set up Myrnong private hospital at St Kilda. She was widowed in 1903. In Fremantle, Western Australia, on 11 June 1904 she married Albert Elliot Goodisson, business manager. They lived at Geraldton until 1913 when Albert went to Batavia for 'health reasons'. He died on 4 February 1914, in the lunatic asylum where he had been committed for 'general paralysis' and derangement. Emotionally and financially bereft, Lillie, with the aid of a loan from her friend Ivy Brookes, returned to Melbourne.

During the 1914-18 war she worked as secretary for the women's division of the People's Liberal Party, the Empire Trade Defence Association and various patriotic causes. By 1919 she was also secretary of the women's section of the Australian Industries Protection League. Mrs Brookes helped establish her in a small library at Elwood, Melbourne, in 1921 but mounting debts and ill health forced its closure.

In 1926 Lillie moved to Sydney where her daughter was living. There she founded the Racial Hygiene Association of New South Wales (later Family Planning Association of New South Wales) to promote sex education and the eradication of venereal disease. As its general secretary she advocated blood tests before marriage and the establishment of family planning clinics. She believed judicious birth control would eradicate inheritable disease, diminish maternal mortality (by discouraging abortion) and result in an increased and healthier population. When the Association's first free clinic opened in 1933 its publicity stressed the mother's health and the child's prospects: its advice was available where there was 'hereditary disease' or parents were unable to give a child 'a decent upbringing, proper food, clothing and education'. She was criticised for advocating 'farm colonies' for 'mental defectives' though her concern in part was to ensure continued institutional care for mentally handicapped persons after the statutory age (eighteen years) at which they were discharged from homes run by the Department of Child Welfare. She joined the campaign to legalise surgical procedures for sterilisation.

Mrs Goodisson was an executive member of the National Council of Women, treasurer for the Travellers' Aid Society, active in the Good Film League of New South Wales and in promotion of Health Week. She was opposed to the death penalty and condemned the Queensland Government's 1929 declaration of open season for slaughter of koalas. A woman of unusual force of character, she remained dedicated and active into old age. Of her work for the Racial Hygiene Society a fellow-worker said: 'she is the Society and without her there would be no Society'. She died on 10 January 1947 at Cremorne Point, Sydney.

Meredith Foley