ALLAN, STELLA MAY (1871–1962)
New Zealand-born Stella Allan was the first female parliamentary reporter in Australasia, and in 1910 became one of three female foundation members of the Australian Journalists’ Association (later the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance). As editor of the women’s pages of the Melbourne Argus for three decades from 1908, she was one of Australia’s most influential and revered women journalists. Born Stella May Henderson in 1871 at Kaiapoi near Christchurch, she was a brilliant student who campaigned for gender equality and socialist ideals. At 26, she survived a ban by the all-male Parliamentary Press Gallery in Wellington to report the national parliament for the Lyttelton Times (Christchurch). In 1903, after moving to Melbourne with her journalist husband, Edwin Allan, she was a regular contributor to the Argus.
In 1908, the mother of four daughters, she was appointed to the journalistic staff to write and edit the Argus women’s pages. Under the heading ‘Women to Women’ and signed ‘Vesta’, her section began as a single weekly column, but expanded rapidly to cover several pages daily, due to greatly increased readership and advertising revue. Allan was a pioneer of the technique of involving readers by inviting and publishing their opinions and responding with authoritative advice to their requests for help. Tapping into a previously almost silent readership, she generated an avalanche of letters. Her pages covered domestic topics and community welfare issues. Although she avoided controversial social issues, her choice of subjects had wide appeal to her predominantly middle-class, stay-at-home readers.
Through her involvement in many community organisations and social initiatives for women and children, Allan became a prominent figure in Melbourne public life. In 1924, she was a substitute delegate to the League of Nations and in 1930 a delegate to the Pan-Pacific Women’s Conference in Hawaii. In 1938, to mark the end of her third decade on the Argus, representatives of more than 30 Victorian women’s organisations gathered in the Melbourne Town Hall for a remarkable tribute.
REF: P. Clarke: ‘The Transformation of Stella Allan: Soox Socialist to Conservative Women’s Page Editor’, Australian Journalism Review, 33(2) (2011).