Sheila Mary McClemans was born on 3 May 1909 at Claremont and attended Perth Modern School and the University of Western Australia. McClemans was one of the earliest women law graduates in Western Australia and obtained her articles from Stawell, Hardwick & Forman. In her first year, however, her only source of income was coaching secondary school students at night.
McClemans was admitted to the Bar on 16 May 1933 but could not find a law firm that would engage her. Consequently, she and her friend and fellow graduate, Molly Kingston, founded Kingston & McClemans, the first all-female law firm in the State. Particularly interested in helping women with their legal problems, she became the first woman barrister to appear before the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
McClemans enlisted in the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) on 11 January 1943 at HMAS Leeuwin, Western Australia. Her excellent leadership and organisational skills earned her rapid promotion, being appointed Second Officer in July and First Officer in November 1943. In January 1944 she was appointed to administer the WRANS, and in August, she was appointed as the Director of the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service. She was promoted to Chief Officer in January 1945 and was selected to represent the WRANS at the 8 June 1946 Victory March in London.
In 1953 she set up her own practice and built up one of Perth's largest divorce practices. She became secretary of the Law Society of Western Australia (1961-65) and administrator of its legal aid scheme (1961-70).
McClemans was National President of the Australian Federation of University Women (1950-52), a member of the Legal Aid Commission of Western Australia (1977-80), and a member of the Parole Board of Western Australia (1964-84). She was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, in 1977. She was appointed as a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1978 New Years' Honours List "for services to law and women's affairs".
Sheila McClemans died on 10 June 1988.
This portrait was painted by Nora Heysen in 1943 and is part of the collection at the Australian War Memorial. ...