Although never a prime ministerial spouse – she died the year before John McEwen’s brief term as prime minister – Ann McEwen was a very able political wife.
Born Ann McLeod, she was educated at Bendigo’s Girton Church of England College, and joined the Country Party while at boarding school. She and McEwen were married soon after she left school.
While they developed their farm, Mrs McEwen campaigned in every federal election in McEwen’s early years in parliament. She was an active figure in the Country Party and remained so in the period of McEwen’s expulsion from the party from 1938 to 1943.
A skilled organiser, Mrs McEwen raised funds for local causes and was an active member of the Country Women’s Association in Victoria. She was appointed a Life Governor of Melbourne’s Prince Henry Hospital for her many years of voluntary work there.
When McEwen was Minister for Air, Mrs McEwen arranged for the care of young Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) recruits from other states who were training at the Flying School at Point Cook. She continued this work during the war and took over an old Toorak mansion as a recreation centre. Mrs McEwen was also a founding member of the White Wings Auxiliary, a group formed to support the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF), established when McEwen was Minister for Air in 1941.
On 1 January 1966, Mrs McEwen was made a Dame of the British Empire in recognition of her long and active service in public life and for country people. An invalid for many years, Mrs McEwen received the award from Governor-General Lord Casey at a private investiture at the McEwen’s Toorak home.
Dame Ann McEwen died on 10 February 1967 at Toorak.
- Golding, Peter, Black Jack McEwen: Political Gladiator, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1996.
- ‘New man in the PM’s chair’, Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 May 1959.