Professor Desley Deacon

Professor Desley Deacon

BA (Hons English) University of Queensland, PhD Sociology ANU 1986

At St Margaret’s 1956-1959

Desley Deacon (nee Straker) was a boarder at St Margaret’s from 1956 to 1959, where she excelled academically and was captain of Bede House. After completing an Honours degree in English at The University of Queensland, she was selected to join the new Administrative Training Program with the Commonwealth Public Service in Canberra.

In 1986 she was awarded a PhD in Sociology at the Australian National University and her thesis was published as Managing Gender: The State, the New Middle Class and Women Workers 1830-1930 (1987). She taught at the University of Texas at Austin in the United States from 1985 to 2001 and published Elsie Clews Parsons: Inventing Modern Life, the biography of a pioneering feminist anthropologist in 1997.

She returned to the ANU in 2001 as a Professor of Gender History in the Research School of the Social Sciences, where she published a number of articles on Australian actress Dame Judith Anderson and co-edited several volumes on transnational lives.  She retired in 2009 as an Emeritus Professor of the university. She now contributes reviews and essays to a number of magazines and has just published a biography, Judith Anderson: Australian Star, First Lady of the American Stage (2019).

Desley was the recipient of St Margaret's Distinguished Past Student Award in 2016.

She says she is grateful to her English teacher at St Margaret’s, Miss Raymond, for her encouragement of her writing skills.