Mary O’Brien


Terms served on Council

Title Council From To
Alderman Waterloo 1947 1948

Family background

Mary Ellen Donohoe (also spelled Donohue) was born on 14 September 1882 in Sydney, daughter of Thomas Donohue and Catherine. She married William Kennedy O’Brien (1885-1942) on 6 September 1911 in Waterloo, NSW and they had a daughter named Edna May (1915-83). Mary Ellen O’Brien died on 12 November 1966 and she was buried with her husband in the Catholic Section of Botany Cemetery. She lived for many years at 263 Elizabeth Street, Zetland. It is possible that Thomas Donohoe was her brother as their parents had the same first names; he was also an alderman on Waterloo Council.

Occupation & interests

Mrs Mary E O’Brien (nee Donohue) was an early female Justice of the Peace, from at least 1929. In 1935 she joined the NSW Women’s Justices’ Association, which was founded in 1923 and she was a member of the Association’s executive council in 1939 and 1940 and also served as returning officer until 1966, when ill health forced her to relinquish that role. In April 1966, the Association bestowed Life Membership upon her.

Community activity

On 24 May 1965 Sydney City Council resolved ‘that the reserve situated at the corner of Tilford Street and Joynton Avenue, Zetland, be named the “Mary O’Brien Reserve” in honour of Mrs Mary O’Brien, a former member of the Waterloo Municipal Council and an ardent worker for charitable, pensioner and youth organisations for a period of approximately fifty years (Resolution of Council 2344/65, 24 May 1965, p. 296).

Local government service

Mary O’Brien was an alderman on Waterloo Council in 1947-48, and was only the second woman to be elected to that council. She could thus be considered a female trail-blazer and important community role model.


‘Women Delegates To Conference’, Daily Examiner, 21 October 1947, p. 1,

‘Municipal Nominations’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 November 1947, p. 17,

City of Sydney, Resolution of Council 2344/65, 24 May 1965, p. 296


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