Image: Portrait of Louise Bakewell, published in Who’s Who in the World of Women, Victoria, 1934
Louise Eileen Bakewell (1907-1982), Historical Society of Victoria Councillor 1942-48
Louise Eileen Bakewell was the eldest child of Church of England clergyman Denis Murrell Deasey and his wife Maude Watt. She was born on 14 May 1907 at Gisborne. Soon after, the family moved to Melbourne where a further five children were born.
The Deasey sons were educated at their father’s old school, Geelong Grammar, and the girls at The Hermitage in Geelong. All went on to tertiary education. The two eldest sons Randal and Desmond followed their father into the church and at the end of World War Two, the youngest, Denison, embarked on a bohemian life in post-war Paris before returning to Australia. The girls all attended the University of Melbourne and graduated with Bachelors of Arts. Kathleen went on to study at Cambridge, played a key role in the Australian Women’s Army Service during World War Two. She later studied at the Sorbonne before teaching in New York then returned to Australia to teach at various tertiary institutions. Alice also spent a lifetime in education. Married to a physicist, she successfully combined the roles of wife, mother and teacher, notably as headmistress of Clyde before its amalgamation with Geelong Grammar.
Image: The Deasey siblings with their father, January 1941. Left to right: Kathleen, Randal, Desmond, Alice (Pringle), Denison, Louise (Bakewell) and Rev Denis Murrell Deasey.
Louise, the eldest of the Deasey siblings, showed early academic promise when she won a non-resident exhibition to Trinity College in 1925. The following year she entered Janet Clarke Hall and emerged in 1928 with a Bachelor of Arts. Four years later she married Guy Bakewell, an accountant, and settled in to life at ‘St Serfs’, 4 Stoke Avenue, Kew, where the couple lived until the 1970s.
There followed an intensive period of involvement in a wide variety of community activities. In the 1930s, Louise joined the Lyceum Club, was President of the League of Nations Youth Movement and Assistant Secretary of the International Club.
Image: Louise Bakewell as ‘Australia’, Women’s Weekly, 20 October 1934. This costume was worn as part of the Centenary of Victoria celebrations. Created by her cousin Helen Ogilvie, it was made from an Australian flag. The head dress represented the rays of the sun and was decorated with vine leaves and purple grapes.
In 1934, the year of the Centenary of Victoria celebrations, twenty-seven year old Louise Bakewell joined the Historical Society of Victoria (HSV) as a life member. Seven years later she became a founding member of the Genealogical Society of Victoria and joined its Council. She was, she stated a few years later, ‘particularly interested in the records of the families of the early pioneers’ and was keen to record the personal histories and experiences of early settlers before their stories were lost. (Adelaide Advertiser, 17 August 1946)
Louise’s first meeting as an HSV Councillor was in August 1942 when she was thirty-four. She joined a much older Mary Webster, the Society’s honorary librarian. Louise was the third woman to join the Council and the youngest woman to do so for many years to come. As was the custom of the day, she was referred to always as Mrs Bakewell or Mrs Guy Bakewell.
The 1930s had been busy years and so were the 1940s. As well as an HSV Councillor, Louise Bakewell was Secretary of the Victorian Mission to Seamen’s Auxiliary, the President of Trinity Women’s Society and a member of the Victorian Women’s Graduate Association. She was also Chair of the Victoria League in Victoria and a member of its national committee, as well as an executive committee member of the Girls Guides Association.
In 1948, after six years as an HSV Councillor, she resigned, but her public activities were far from over. In that year she became the first woman trustee of the Northcote Children’s Emigration Fund and from 1952 to 1972 was its Deputy Chair. She was a member of the Good Neighbour Council. For a decade from 1951 she sat on the Victorian State Advisory Committee of the ABC. A music lover, she was also on the executive of the Victorian Symphony Orchestra Committee and in the 1970s she served as deputy chair of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl Trust.
Her interest in history continued, now firmly focused on immigration stories. In 1952 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services in connection with the previous year’s Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations. She was President of the Immigration Settlement Committee of the Victoria League, trustee of the Northcote Children’s Emigration Fund and the Victorian representative of the Society for Overseas Settlement for British women.
It is unsurprising, then, that when she chose to return to a leadership role in the history world, it was as a member of the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV). From November 1961 to August 1973 she served as President of the GSV and was made of Fellow in 1973. After her term as President, she remained on the GSV Council as Vice President until 1978. She also served as President of the Heraldry Council of Australia in the 1970s.
Louise Bakewell brought to the HSV and the GSV her ability to run efficient meetings, her skills as a public speaker, knowledge gained through her own interests and other community activities, and an ability to bring people together in a common cause.
Guy Bakewell died in 1975 aged 75, Louise in 1982 aged 74. Their ashes are interred at St Peter’s Eastern Hill.
Louise Bakewell’s contribution to Australian society was recognised in 2013 when Bakewell Street in the Canberra suburb of Coombs was named after her.
Cheryl Griffin, February 2021
RHSV archives – membership records, Council minutes 1941-1948
Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes
Burials, St Peter’s Eastern Hill, 1982
Victorian electoral rolls 1936-1980
Ancestry family trees
Adelaide Advertiser, 17 August 1946, 30 August 1946
Adelaide News, 16 August 1946
Age, 18 December 1918, 1 May 1942, 16 October 1944, 5 June 1952
Argus, 4 December 1925, 23 October 1934
Women’s Weekly, 20 October 1934
Amateurs and experts: a history of the Genealogical Society of Victoria 1941-2001, Elizabeth Ellen Marks, Genealogical Society of Victoria, Melbourne, 2001.
Who’s Who in the World of Women, Victoria, Australia. Centenary edition. Vol II, 1934, The Reference Presidents Association, Melbourne, 1934. http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/uploads/obituaries/16289/whos_who_world_019.pdf
Image of Deasey family, January 1940. Wikimedia Commons. Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike 4.0 International.
For brother William Denison Deasey, State Library of Victoria, MS Collection, MS 12827; Louisa Deasey, A letter from Paris.
For sister Alice Muriel Pringle, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 December 2009.
For sister Maude Kathleen Deasey, Australian Dictionary of Biography http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/deasey-maude-kathleen-9936; The Australian Women’s Register https://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0406b.htm