History of May Pitt Playground

Named after a strong and influential woman who was the first female member of the executive of the NSW Local Government Association.


May Pitt Playground is located at 205-209 St Johns Road, Forest Lodge.

There was once a butcher’s shop and house here, dating to the 1870s. The buildings were resumed by Sydney City Council in 1949 and demolished to make way for a playground. Construction was completed in 1953 and the play area was named after May Pitt, an alderman on Glebe Council from 1941 to 1946.

May Pitt was born at Mudgee in 1889, the daughter of George and Jessie Giles. In 1906 at Mudgee she married Reginald Goodman and later divorced him. In 1922 at Marrickville she married Alfred Joseph Pitt. There were 6 children from the 2 marriages. 

A photo of a lady.
Alderman May Pitt, 1889-1957Image: City of Sydney Archives (unique ID: A-00033380)

In the early 20th century, women occupied a central position in inner city neighbourhoods. Their auxiliaries and distress societies formalised and gave recognition to informal networks that existed for decades. The 1929 timber strike had a radicalising impact on many Glebe women, including May Pitt.

Women were conspicuous by their absence from local government in NSW. Women who owned property could vote, but their right to stand for election was not conferred until 1918 under the Women’s Legal Status Act. The masculine Anglo-Celtic atmosphere of inner city Labor Party machines meant women did much of the hard work at a branch level but were not rewarded by representation on local councils. Pitt, a strong and influential woman, was an exception. She was interested in obtaining assistance for the unemployed, establishing playgrounds and community activities. She was also a good friend of Pat Hills, Sydney’s Lord Mayor 1953-56. May Pitt, an important member of the Glebe branch of the Labor Party, and of Glebe Council (1941-46), was one of a handful of women elected to inner city councils in the first half of the 20th century. Other women elected were: Lilian Fowler (Newtown), Mary Anne Dunn (Glebe), Sylvia Stapleton (Paddington) and Ebena Isles (Redfern). Pitt resigned from Glebe Council on 25 October 1946. She was the first female member of the executive of the NSW Local Government Association. 

May Pitt died at her home on Broughton Street, Glebe, on 13 December 1957. Her contributions to the life of Glebe, and to local government, are remembered in the May Pitt Playground.

Further reading

Sydney's Aldermen: May Pitt