Stella Allan

Stella May Allan (1871-l962), journalist, was born on 25 October 1871 at Kaiapoi, South Island, New Zealand, seventh child of Alice (born Connolly) and Daniel Henderson, clerk. She was educated at Canterbury Girls' High School and Canterbury University College, graduating BA (1892) and MA (1893). She enrolled in law, though the practice of law was barred to women in New Zealand until amending legislation was passed in 1896, and she worked in a legal office while completing her law degree. She graduated LL B in 1896 but did not apply for admission to the Bar.

Stella became the Wellington correspondent for the Lyttleton Times. In 1900 she married Edwin Frank Allan, a leader-writer for the Wellington Evening Post. In 1903 they moved to Melbourne where Edwin joined the Argus. Stella had four daughters while working as a freelance journalist. She was one of the group of women in professional employment who consolidated friendships while advancing professional interests through membership of the Lyceum Club (founded in 1912). After writing a series of articles for the Argus on the Women's Work Exhibition (1907), she was appointed to do a weekly column which she called 'Women to Women'. Writing as 'Vesta' she covered all the 'progressive' issues of the day and built a reputation for authoritative and informative journalism. In 1910 she was a foundation member of the Australian Journalists Association.

She took a particular interest in child care, joining the Free Kindergarten Union, the Victorian Association of Crèches and the later Babies Health Centres Association. At the Imperial Health Conference, London, 1914, she spoke approvingly of the 'baby bonus' and of the benefits working mothers and their children received from well-run crèches. Like other women of her time she was interested in the mental development as well as the physical well-being of the child. She publicised the work of the District Nursing Service and of baby clinics but also reported the latest professional advice on training.

'Vesta' promoted the idea of scientific management in the home. 'No woman', she wrote in 1914 'ought to be occupied all her time with domestic labour'. 'Method' was the 'great secret' of labour. Her support for the teaching of domestic science at tertiary level seems to have been directed to finding a way in which activities which were traditionally 'women's work', might be professionalised to gain status and prestige. She was a leading exponent of 'domestic feminism', but it was intelligently based and perceptive of the difficulties arising in any attempt to change embedded attitudes on 'men's work' and 'women's work'.

She joined the National Council of Women in New Zealand and in Victoria. Her nomination as substitute delegate for Australia to the League of Nations assembly (1924) was sent forward by the Australian Women's National League, the women's section of the Victorian Farmers' League, and the YWCA. She had been widowed in 1922. Stella Allan retired to England in 1939 where she continued to report on the activities of women. In 1947 she returned to Melbourne where she died on 1 March 1962.

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