Edwina – her name means ‘wealthy friend’ – was born in Battersea, the eldest of three children. Her mother was an ophthalmic nurse, her father a London Transport bus maintenance man. When war broke out her father served in the army and the family moved to Twickenham where Edwina was educated at Twickenham County School, an all girls school with an emphasis on academic achievement. A quiet, serious child with her head always in a book, Edwina left school at 16 as her pay packet was needed by the family. Following an interview arranged by her father she was employed by London Transport, firstly as a clerk in the publicity department and after a few months in its laboratory. Her next job was at the local hospital as a trainee laboratory technician. A keen cyclist, she used that mode of transport to get to work and to the local technical college where she studied laboratory technology. Edwina’s other interests were camping, bushwalking, bellringing and membership of the Richmond YHA social group whose newsletter she edited and ran off on a Roneo duplicator.
At 21 Edwina took her first overseas holiday – to France, Andorra and Spain – with a boyfriend and another young couple before taking up a new job testing toiletries for Unilever. In 1960 she moved into market research, a field of study then in its infancy. From designing and testing questionnaires she moved to the position of interviewing team supervisor with Gillette’s. In her leisure hours Edwina went bushwalking and camping with the Twickenham 21 Club and served on its committee.
In 1964 as an unsponsored ‘ten pound Pom’ Edwina flew alone to Sydney. The only migration requirements were passing a medical and having £40 in the bank on arrival. The warm weather and a day’s sightseeing with a cousin were enough to convince her she’d made the right decision. Within a week she started working for Beacon Research in Unilever House at Circular Quay, in an office with a view of the Opera House being built. She was soon living in a group house in Cremorne. After five years with Beacon (during which time she was on the committee of the Unilever House Staff Club) Edwina moved to ASRB, another market research company, joined the Market Research Society of NSW and served on its committee, editing its newsletter and the Interviewers’ Handbook. She then became a partner in a small market research company, Tavistock Research, whose government surveys included a part of the Henderson Commission into Poverty.
In 1980 Edwina, with her secretary and team of casual interviewers, joined another market research company, MRA. She remained with this company, under various managements, until her retirement in 2002.
In 1972 Edwina realised that she was a feminist and became an active member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby. She helped to edit Wel Informed for 14 years.
In 1974 Edwina confirmed her affection for Australia by being naturalised.
In retirement, Edwina turned to voluntary service with the Glebe Society, the Adult Migrant English Service, Radio 2RPH and the Red Cross Trauma Teddy knitting program.
Edwina’s love of travel has not diminished since her first modest European trip in 1957. In 1991 she travelled through the USA and Canada; she made frequent family trips to the UK; visited China in 1997; cruised to Canada, Alaska and Hawaii in 2003; and went to Antarctica in 2004. In 2001, using a round the world ticket – a 65th birthday present from her bosses – she toured through Europe and America and safaried in Africa.
Edwina moved to Glebe on Melbourne Cup Day in 1976. Looking for a house with space to live and work, she and her business partner settled on 224 Bridge Rd, a deceased estate subdivided into three dwellings. Edwina had a mental image of the owner as ‘a little old lady’ but discovered from real estate agent and Glebe Society member Eileen Lacy that it was an investment property owned by a young man from the Eastern Suburbs who had met with a skiing accident in Europe. The deposit of $500 was paid but it took time to find a mortgagee as the property was DMR affected, with plans to widen Bridge Rd. At the rear was a large vacant block with plenty of space for parking and stables for three trotting ponies (Edwina took a bag of manure to friends’ parties instead of ‘a bottle’.) In 1998 she and her neighbours lost a court action against developers and Leichhardt Council and the block is now covered by St Johns Wood, a complex of 17 townhouses.
Number 224 Bridge Rd is in a terrace of ten built 1913-14 on or close to the site of the original Forest Lodge House. Early occupiers of Munro Terrace included Mary and Annie Cummins at no. 220 and Elsie Armstrong at no. 222. Labourer John Martin Knutsen and his wife Mary Ellen were neighbours at no. 226 where their three-year-old son Cyril died in 1914 and where Mary’s mother Elizabeth Baird died in 1925.
Music teacher Bruce Sheldon Green was living in 224 Bridge Rd by 1915 when he was offering board and lodging accommodation. Soon after advertising in 1919 for a rental cottage in ‘a decent suburb’ he moved to Rose Bay. He subsequently lived at Double Bay and Chatswood (where he died in 1969). Known occupiers of Edwina’s house after Green’s departure include Miss Jane Brady; widow Franzeska Loops née Schacht; Mrs May Brennan; labourer William Forrester and his wife Margaret; and GPO letter carrier John Vernon and his wife Fanny. Long-term owneroccupiers were RAAF leading aircraftman John Francis Garvey (1905-69) and Veronica Elizabeth née Hand. John returned home after war service but had left by 1954. His wife sold the building in 1973.
Sources: Australian War Memorial; NSW births, deaths, marriages registry; NSW electoral rolls; Personal information from Edwina Doe; Jocelynne A Scutt (ed.) Singular Women: reclaiming spinsterhood 1995; Sydney Morning Herald 7 June 1913, 18 October 1913, 2 December 1913, 26 October 1915, 22 July 1919, 23 May 1935