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Ada Watson

Though very briefly prime ministerial wife in 1904, Ada Watson had fifteen years of experience as a ‘political wife’. A few months after their marriage in 1889, Watson was elected to the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council. Two years later he acquired the additional role of secretary to the local branch of the new Labour Electoral League. From 1901 Watson was leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and spent long periods in Melbourne, a 24-hour train journey from their Sydney home.

Ada Watson may have been influential in Watson’s resignation as leader of the party in 1907. Although lobbied by labour women’s organisations, she declined to dissuade him to resign. Entertaining a deputation at home at 12 Bent Street, Paddington in October, the matter was concluded with her comment ‘I cannot agree … I want my husband home with me much more than the position makes possible’.

Ada Watson died at home, aged 60, on 19 July 1921. No record of her life before her marriage has yet been located. Nor is it known whether as a seamstress, she was an active unionist in her 20s and 30s like many other Sydney women in the clothing trades. Not even a photograph of Ada Watson can be found.


Makin, Norman, Federal Labour Leaders, Union Printing, Sydney, 1961.

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