Profile - Zelda D'Aprano (1928-2018)
Zelda was born to Jewish migrant parents in Melbourne in 1928 and was raised in poor conditions in Carlton during the Depression. She left school at age 14 and worked in a series of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs before training as a dental nurse. She married at age 16 and joined a political women’s discussion group, which led to her joining the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1950.
Zelda became infamous for her actions on the 21 October 1969, when she chained herself to the doors of the Commonwealth Building to protest the failure of the Equal Pay Case and the ongoing lack of wage equality for women. Zelda had joined the communist-led Australian Meat Industry Employees’ Union in 1969, which had brought a test equal pay case to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. During the hearings, Zelda became increasingly frustrated as she “watched men arguing with other men about what women were worth” (Australian Biography nd). Expressing her outrage at the outcome of the case, she chained herself to the doors of the court. She was later joined by Alva Geikie and Thelma Solomon. Soon afterwards, the women founded the militant Women’s Action Committee, which mounted prominent protests including the equal pay tram ride in 1970 and anti-Miss Teenage Quest demonstrations in 1970-71. For her outspokenness, Zelda was dismissed from the Meatworkers’ Union, a decision that caused her great pain.
Zelda was an outspoken feminist and activist for the Women’s Liberation Movement throughout the 1970s and helped established the Women’s Liberation Centre in Melbourne. She also assisted in organising the Women at Work and Women and the Trade Unions Conference in the early 1970s.
Zelda became disillusioned with the CPA, particularly with what she considered to be sexism in the Party, and she resigned her membership in 1971.
In 2001 Zelda was named on the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in recognition of her work on the behalf of women and in 2004 she was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia.
Zelda D’Aprano died in Melbourne on 21 February 2018.
Lake, M 2018, Zelda D'Aprano, fierce fighter for justice and women's rights, Sydney Morning Herald, accessed <https://www.smh.com.au/national/zelda-daprano-fierce-fighter-for-justice-and-womens-rights-20180410-h0yl1i.html>
Van Deventer, L 2018, Zelda D'Aprano was a feminist trailblazer, Victorian Women's Trust, accessed <https://www.vwt.org.au/zelda-daprano/>
Australian Biography n.d., Zelda D'Aprano brief biography, accessed <https://www.australianbiography.gov.au/subjects/daprano/bio.html>