Profile - Betty Reilly (1910-2003)

Betty Reilly was born in Melbourne on 15 November 1910. 

Betty joined the St Kilda Branch of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1937 before relocating to Sydney. She volunteered to assist the Newtown strike committee during the 1941 textile strike. She then worked at Bonds mill in Camperdown but was subsequently sacked; and found work as a doffer at Australian Woollen Mills, when she began organising workers into the Textile Workers’ Union. Reilly was appointed shop steward and was active in the 1943 Sydney Textile Workers’ Union Strike. She very reluctantly supported the CPA’s call to end strike action and later recalled her decision to ‘scab’ on the strike as one of the worst decisions of her life (P Griffiths 1998 p.25).  

Betty became secretary of the CPA Women’s Committee and was an active member of the Union of Australian Women. During the 1950s she was also employed by the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Berlin. 

Betty remained active in the women’s movement and peace movement in Australia throughout her life. Her published articles include “A Stitch in time: experiences in the rag trade” (Australian Left Review, no. 82 September 1982) and “Knowing we were right” (Australian Left Review, no. 85 Spring 1983). 



Reilly, B 1983, Knowing We Were Right, Australian Left Review, 1(85), accessed


Betty Reilly, c. 1950s (N188-4-2)

Betty Reilly, c. 1950s (N188-4-2)