Mary Lillian McArdle (Lil) was born in Ballarat on the 6th September 1915. She attended St Columba’s School in Ballarat North and Sacred Heart College in Ballarat East. She began a dressmaking course at the School of Mines, but gave this up when she was needed at home to look after her ailing mother.
After Japan entered World War II, Lil joined the Australian Women’s Army Service. After completing the course, she was transferred to the Military Secretary’s Branch at Melbourne Grammar School in St. Kilda Road. Lil spent more than three years in the army and was demobbed in February 1946. She turned down the offer of a position in the public service to return to Ballarat to look after her parents, who were both in poor health.
In the 1950’s Lil obtained a librarian’s position at the Mechanics Institute working part-time in the evenings. In 1959, this converted into day-time work. She soon proved her value and went on to become secretary and librarian, the first female member of the committee of the Mechanics Institute and later president in 1985. Lil was a life member of both the Institute and the Catholic Women’s League and a long-time member of the Ballarat Historical Society. She was appointed to the Ballarat Diocesan Historical Commission in 1985.
Despite achieving much in her life, Lil is remembered most fondly by a niece and nephew to whom she was devoted, living with and supporting their family after the tragic death of their father. In order to do this, she sacrificed her own prospects of marriage and children.
In her niece’s words : “ Lil was an intelligent, well –read academic without university degrees and a broad minded, compassionate, loyal, unselfish and loving aunt. She was a strong independent woman full of enthusiasm and spirit who had remarkable leadership qualities”.
Lil died on the 13th December 2004. She is buried in the Ballarat New Cemetery Lawn K Row 19 Grave 04.