Bertha McNamara

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Bertha McNamara Bredt (née Matilda Emilie Bertha Kalkstein 28 September 1853 – 1 August 1931), was a Sydney-based Australian socialist agitator, feminist, pamphleteer, bookseller, and mother-in-law of Australian writer Henry Lawson.


She was born 28 September 1853 in Poznan, Poland[1] to , she migrated to Victoria, via England, in 1869. After the death of her husband Peter Hermann Bredt, she became a political activist and published Home Talk on Socialism (1891), one of Australia's first pamphlets on socialism. On 9 July 1892 she married William McNamara.

In Castlereagh St, Sydney, she ran a boarding-house in conjunction with McNamara's Book and News Depot. Bertha McNamara, who has been called 'The Mother of the Labour Movement', carried on agitating for social reform for 25 years after the death of her second husband.

In 1896, her daughter, also named Bertha, married Henry Lawson. Another daughter, Hilda, married prominent Labor Party politician Jack Lang.


She was a member of the Social Democratic Federation of Australasia, Australian Labour Party, Labor Women's Central Organizing Committee and of Womanhood Suffrage League of New South Wales.[2][3][4] She died of pneumonia at North Sydney on 1 August 1931 and a Bas releif of Bertha McNamara Bredt is located in Foyer of the Trades Hall (Goulburn Street, Sydney)[5][6]


  • Commercialism and Distribution of the Nineteenth Century, Forgery and Workingmen's Homes, (1894).
  • How to Become Rich Beyond the Dreams of Avarice (1908)
  • Shylock Exposed, (1920).
  • Paper Money (1910).


  1. ^ Verity Burgmann, McNamara, Matilda Emilie Bertha (1853–1931) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986.
  2. ^ J. T. Lang, I Remember (Syd, 1956)
  3. ^ Rosemary Francis , McNamara, Matilda Emilie Bertha . The Australian Women's Register.
  4. ^ Joy Damousi, Kim Rubenstein, Mary Tomsic, Diversity in Leadership: Australian women, past and present(ANU Press, 2014). p110.
  5. ^ The Australian Worker (Sydney), 30 March 1932.
  6. ^ Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Aug 1931, 28 Mar 1932.