Meriden’s oldest Old Girl turns 100

14 February 2019

Judith O’Connor (née Lipton), recently celebrated her one hundredth birthday. She is mother to two Meriden alumnae, a grandmother, great grandmother and an entrepreneur; and her educational journey began at Meriden in 1924.

Judith loved her time at Meriden and made many good friends. She graduated from the School in Year 9 in 1934, after completing her Intermediate Certificate. In the 1930s, most young women left school at 15 and went to work. Judith attended Miss Hale’s Business College, where she learned shorthand, typing and business principles. On completing the course, her first job was at David Jones, where she worked in the office of Sir Charles Lloyd-Jones, “licking envelopes”.

Her next job was in ‘Uncle Max’s Doll Shop and Doll Hospital’. Here, she not only performed clerical work but also served in the shop.

In 1937, Judith went to work in an office, where she was kissed against her will by her employer on her first day on the job. It was a time when women’s rights were almost unheard-of in Australia. When reported to the police, Judith’s boss denied forcibly kissing her. However, police officers noticed that he had “pink lipstick on his upper lip”. He was fined 20 pounds and this sexual harassment case was a first in Australian legal history.

Following this, she worked as a receptionist for a well-known Sydney photographer and then in Mark Foys, a large Sydney department store. In these roles, she was responsible for the photography department and also took photographs at weddings on weekends.

Having an entrepreneurial streak, Judith, at the age of 23, began to provide a full wedding planning service for brides. She organised the invitations, booked hire cars, prepared the bouquets and took care of other event requirements.

During World War II, Judith continued to work at Mark Foys while carrying out her weekend business. In addition, she began working in the “All Services Canteen” at Central station, where, from midnight to dawn, she served pies, tea and coffee to service personnel.

Judith left work to raise her children: two daughters, Victoria, who finished school at Meriden in 1968 as Dux and Deputy Head Girl, and Rochelle, who graduated in 1971, and who was Captain of Sussex House and also Deputy Head Girl. It was not until 1962 that Judith began working again, selling library books to schools and public libraries, which she did until she retired in 2004, aged 85.

Judith now lives in an aged care home in Dural. She is proud to be Meriden’s oldest Old Girl.