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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Alma Doreen Leighton (1905–1935)

by Katharine Susannah Throssell

Alma Leighton, n.d.

Alma Leighton, n.d.

We are all grieving for Alma Leighton, who died at Wooroloo on August 29.

Still young and eager to live, she was attacked by the fatal disease that miners and their wives and families have learned to dread — tuberculosis of the throat. But even when she knew that her health was threatened, Mrs. Leighton set about organising a branch of the Movement Against War and Fascism on the goldfields.

Why did she do this? Because she understood that the lives and liberties of the men and women she lived among were threatened by the forces of reaction which profit by war and oppression of the working class.

When a provisional committee of the State Council Against War and Fascism was formed in Kalgoorlie in August, 1934, Mrs. Leighton agreed to act as secretary, although she protested that she had no training as an organiser and could not speak in public. Almost singlehanded, she went about arousing interest and support for a branch to be formed. As a result of her energy and enthusiasm the Eastern Goldfields branch was formed and became one of the bright spots of the anti-war movement in Western Australia.

As a delegate from the Eastern Goldfields branch, Mrs. Leighton attended the All Australian Congress Against War, which was held in Melbourne during November, 1934. Slight and frail, she looked, standing before a vast audience in the Town Hall at Port Melbourne. Over 300 delegates from trade union branches, A.L.P. branches, religious and cultural organisations were present, as well as many visitors who packed the hall at every session. Alma Leighton made one of the finest speeches heard at the congress. Simple, witty and direct, it was, and cheered to the echo.

''Who is she?" people asked each other.

"Who's that girl representing the Eastern Goldfields? — Alma Leighton."

All over Australia, people who heard her that day will be remembering what she said, thinking with sympathy of her husband and children, and grieving for the passing of so brave and gallant a spirit. Those who knew her well, realised how plucky and brilliant she was. That she had great gifts, a quick original brain and delightful sense of humour. These were denied development and recognition by the system under which we live; but she used them to the limit of her failing strength in order to save this country from the misery of war and fascist tyranny.

While she was in hospital at Wooroloo, Mrs. Leighton was still concerned about her work in the anti-war movement. She wired the women's committee of the State Council to protest against the action of the Commissioner of Police in Sydney when he refused to receive women on a deputation from the National Council in New South Wales.

When I went to see her at Wooroloo, she was surrounded by books and papers dealing with the great International congress, representative of 30,000,000 people which met in Amsterdam, the women's congress in Paris attended by over 1000 delegates, the students' congress in Brussels, last year, at which 2000 delegates from 47 countries were present. She could not speak but pointed out the figures to me.

The last letter I had from her was one of distress that the eastern goldfields branch was not functioning as it should in her absence. "Have I worked so badly," she wrote, "that the branch will not exert itself without me?"

I wrote at once to say that she had done splendidly. Nobody could have done more; and that I was sure the goldfields branch would grow and surmount all difficulties because of the good work she had put into it.

Men and women of the eastern goldfields, Alma Leighton gave her strength and spirit to the utmost, as you know, in the defence of your rights, for the safeguarding of your lives from the horror and desolation of war. Are you going to allow her effort to have been in vain? Or are you going to make the eastern goldfields branch of the Movement Against War and Fascism a tribute to her memory. Alma Leighton would have desired no other memorial than a vigorous organisation to carry on her work.

Throughout Australia, men and women of the goldfields are known for their courage and independence of thought, and for their generous support of a mate who has done them a good turn. The movement against war and fascism is the only international organisation of the working class with a practical programme to oppose war. Without a powerful organisation of the working class the League of Nations cannot be effective as an instrument to prevent war and the oppression of weaker nations by the Imperialist Powers. Constituted as it is, it represents chiefly the interests of the governing class, dominated by the influence of the armament and chemical industries. But already powerful organisations of the working class are forcing the League of Nations to serve the interests of the peoples of all countries opposed to war.

Alma Leighton realised this. She realised that in working for the Movement Against War and Fascism she was working to preserve the most vital interests of the men and women of Australia. "She was sheer grit," a miner said to me a few days ago. 'The workers of Kalgoorlie and Boulder never had a better friend than Mrs. Leighton when she organised the movement, against war on the goldfields."

In sorrow, and with a deep sense of loss, I do urge you to honour the memory of Alma Leighton by making the Eastern Goldfields branch of the Movement Against War and Fascism a living demonstration, both of your appreciation of its purposes and of the woman who so unselfishly served them.

Original publication

Citation details

Katharine Susannah Throssell, 'Leighton, Alma Doreen (1905–1935)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Alma Leighton, n.d.

Alma Leighton, n.d.

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Landauer, Alma Doreen

3 June, 1905
Kookynie, Western Australia, Australia


29 August, 1935 (aged 30)
Wooroloo, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


Key Organisations
Key Places