Philida Sturgess-Hoy


Philida Sturgiss-Hoy


Philida grew up on a loss making farm and attended primary school at Falls Creek (NSW) where her first year was spent in the weather shed with facilities including a water tank and a long drop toilet. The Economics teacher at Nowra High school, Philip Read, encouraged Philida to believe she was good and she got a Commonwealth Scholarship to ANU, the first in her family to go to University. Her mother was very proud and did all she could to make it possible. Philida loved university, although there were few women doing Economics and Accounting which did cause her some problems. She did very well and was awarded a cadetship for the final two years which was a great relief as living on “nothing” at university was difficult. Her feminism was sparked when just before her honours exams she found she was pregnant. The university doctor and $500 savings from the cadetship delivered an illegal abortion which would have been out of her reach if she still lived in Nowra. To put this $500 in perspective, average MALE weekly earnings in 1970 were around $70.

Philida joined Women’s Electoral Lobby in January 1973 just after it was formed to monitor the 1972 elections. She wrote numerous submissions for WEL focused on tax and superannuation, topics that many women were uninterested in or not well equipped to argue about. Philida understood that money was crucial if women were to have independence. Here her mother’s struggle to find any paid work in a country town (unpaid work for the community was very plentiful) despite being one of the first older women to study for the final two years of school was very relevant. Philida also did a lot of work for WEL with Kay Johnston on child care and then later on abortion law reform.

Philida was instrumental in setting up two child care centres in the late 1970s. The current Kindergarten Union (KU) at Farrer Street, Braddon where she was the second Treasurer to the founder and visionary Kay Johnston who made the project possible. She was also founding President/Treasurer of the Turner Primary After School Care program.

Philida has only recently moved on from assisting to organise the Pamela Denoon Lecture at ANU. She spent the most time with Pamela when they both became ill in the early 1980s. They talked about the feminist aspects of illness. In the 1970s Philida used Whitlam’s newly introduced maternity leave to have two children and still retain a job. Her last paid job was at The Treasury.


'I have deliberately placed Philida to one side of the canvas and as though she is looking on.  I have tried to reflect the difficult balancing act she has conducted through all the time I have known her,  juggling her family commitments, her call to serve the feminist movement and the effects of debilitating chronic fatigue.'