Member Profile Members

Charter Member – Mary White

Mary White (1912 - 1981) Charter Member of Zonta Club of Sydney and founding member of Society of Interior Designers Australia.

Born in 1912 in Queensland, Mary White (nee Mort) studied Interior Design at the East Sydney Technical College.

In 1954 Mary opened a shop in Edgecliff, selling custom furniture made from her own drawings. She had many commissions, including offices of newspapers and Sydney University, along with a special design for General Motors Holden.

In 1961 she converted her shop to the Mary White School of Art, which taught colour and skills of interior design.

In 1950, she had been one of the founders of the Society of Interior Designers, along with Don Johnston, Edmund Dyles, Don Shaw, Stuart Low, Margaret Lord and Marion Best. The organisation was later called Society of Interior Designers Australia (SIDA), and was incorporated in 1964. The mission was to advance the standards of interior design and decoration. Mary White helped to design the rigorous application process for admission to the Society in the 1960s.

Much interesting information about SIDA can be found on the Sydney Living Museums website, including lists of “Rooms on View” which was an exhibition held each year and were a type of advertising for the profession. Mary White is noted to have provided “An Outdoor Pavilion for Richie Benaud” in 1962 as well as “A Mountain Retreat for Sir William Hudson” in 1967 amongst others.

As well as being an early member of SIDA (and president from 1962 – 1971) Mary also was involved in founding of the Crafts Council of Australia.

From 1965 – 1972 she was the State Representative to the Australian Society for Education through the Arts.

Mary White was a member of the Zonta Club of Sydney from the first meeting in 1966 until 1969.

In 1971 she moved to Adelaide and worked for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, later moving to Dubbo NSW as a Senior Community Advisor. She retired from the public service in 1977.

She died in 1981 aged 69 years.

An archive of material from Marys work is held at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences

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