Alfred Deakin's Family

Pattie Deakin

Photo of Pattie Deakin, c.1885 (
Pattie Deakin, c.1885

Alfred Deakin's wife Pattie (Elizabeth Martha Anne Browne) was born in 1863, the fifth of eleven children born to Hugh Junor Browne and his wife Elizabeth. The family was well-to-do, with extensive mercantile interests and Pattie enjoyed a happy, boisterous childhood with her brothers, sisters and school friends. She was educated by governesses and then at school and first met Alfred Deakin in 1877 at the Sunday School she attended (the Progressive Lyceum), where he was a teacher. The Progressive Lyceum was a Spiritualist Sunday School; her father had developed a passionate and life-long interest in spiritualism which Alfred and Pattie also shared for a time.

Alfred and Pattie were married in 1882 despite opposition from her family who were concerned about Alfred's seemingly delicate health (he was thin and pale as a young man) and the future happiness of a couple who both seemed so strong willed. There was also an expectation that Pattie, with her looks, accomplishments and wealth, could probably have made a much more eligible match. Alfred at this time was a struggling barrister, newly elected to Parliament who supplemented his income by writing for The Age.

Alfred and Pattie overcame these early problems triumphantly; theirs was to be a happy and stable marriage that proved to be a great source of strength for them both. Nevertheless, Pattie had to weather many storms throughout her marriage: there was a rift with her sister-in-law, Catherine, who was older than Alfred and who continued to exert her influence over him despite his marriage, continuing friction with her parents and her own poor health.

Unlike modern prime minister's wives, Pattie Deakin's role was largely behind the scenes. Although she had both charm and ability, the raising of her three daughters, the running of the family home and her own ill health meant that she played very little active part in Alfred's early political life.

However, she did accompany Alfred on many overseas visits, and it was in 1907, whilst Alfred was attending the Imperial Conference in London that Pattie was asked to address a gathering of women for the Primrose League. Initially she declined, as she had no experience of public speaking, but when pressed, agreed. Her speech was very well received, and this year seems to have been a turning point in her life.

After her return to Melbourne, she became involved in the preparations for the Australian Exhibition of Women's Work, held at the Exhibition Buildings. This led to her becoming President of the Kindergarten Union and an active committee member of both the Association of Crèches and the Bush Nursing Association. In 1912 she was also invited to be inaugural President of the Lyceum Club, a new club for female graduates and other women who had distinguished themselves in their careers.

In later life she continued to be involved with many causes, especially those that helped women and children. During the First World War, she became the organiser of the Anzac Buffet, a depot for clothing, refreshment and advice for soldiers and their families. She also cared devotedly for an increasingly dependent Alfred whose health and memory continued to suffer after the strains of his political life. After Alfred's death in 1919, Pattie continued her philanthropic work and spent time gardening and sketching and with her grandchildren. She died peacefully in 1934.


Photo of Ivy Deakin in her wedding dress, 1905. Deakin University Library
Photo of Ivy Deakin in her wedding dress, 1905.

Alfred and Pattie's eldest daughter was born in 1883. She was a talented musician who studied with Marshall Hall at the University of Melbourne. She married Herbert Brookes in 1905; Brookes was a mining engineer and businessman and had known Alfred for some years. He became a trusted friend and confidante and a great support to his father-in-law, who did not have many close friends. Herbert was to later serve in many significant public service roles and Ivy was also active in public life. She was on the executive of the National Council of Women (Victoria) from 1912-40 and was an active campaigner for her father and his party. She had three children: Wilfred, Jessie and Alfred.


Photo of Stella Deakin, c.1901. (
Stella, c.1901

Stella was the middle daughter of Alfred and Pattie and was born in 1886. Unlike her sisters, she lacked the family musical talent and instead showed a distinct leaning towards science. She studied at Melbourne University and overseas and became a research chemist. In 1911 she married David Rivett, a lecturer in chemistry and later the founding chief executive officer then chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (later CSIRO). They had two sons, Rohan and Kenneth.


Vera was the youngest of the Deakin daughters, born in 1891. She showed promise as a musician and studied music in Europe. During World War I she did volunteer work for the Red Cross in London, where she met her husband to be, the pioneer Australian Flying Corps pilot Thomas White, DFC. White was captured by the Turks and wrote a book about his experiences and escape during the war. After the war he entered politics where he had a successful career; he and Vera were married in 1920 and they had four daughters: Lilian, Patricia, Shirley and Judith.