Some Australian women. Part V. Prominent social workers. [6 June 1891]

[Editor: This is part 5 of “Some Australian women”, a series of articles on the achievements of women in Australia. Published in The Illustrated Sydney News, 6 June 1891.]

Some Australian women:


Part V.

Prominent social workers.

Lady Clarke is a staunch supporter of the higher education of women, and an unfailing pioneer in all practical efforts towards the elevation of her sex. Notably in the generous aid given by her towards the erection of the Hostel for Women University Students, in connection with Trinity College, Melbourne, does she play a vital part in the intellectual development of Australian women. When the urgent need of such an institution was felt, after the Trinity College authorities, in 1883, had somewhat tardily decided to allow women equal privileges with men in the College Curriculum, Lady Clarke, with open hand, at once stepped forward and presented £5000 to the building funds (afterwards supplemented by a gift of £2000 from Lady Davies, of whom more anon). And so it came to pass that the Janet Clarke Buildings, as the handsome structure is called, now rears its head within the University precincts.

Shortly after the foundation-stone of the building was laid, an offer came from an unknown source, of £1000 towards liquidating the remaining debt on the Hostel, conditionally, that an equal amount should be raised for the same object by the public, within a given time. Strenuous exertions were made to meet the terms of the gift, Lady Clarke being among the most active of the workers engaged in the effort to raise the stipulated sum, opening her ballroom for a cake fair and other entertainments, held in order to collect the money. Finally, the amount was realised, and the gift was claimed. It then transpired that the munificent donor of £5000 was also the contributor of the subsidiary £1000.

The opening of the Janet Clarke Buildings, entirely free from debt (the nucleus of the future classical quadrangle) is now un fait accompli, and the Colony can boast of another most valuable aid to the higher education of its women.

As in all schemes tending to the literary, artistic, or scientific culture of her sex, so in all forms of good work, whether connected with churches, hospitals, mission work, charitable organisations, or other efforts for the advancement of the community, the subject of this sketch is always a leading figure, and her bright example is an important element in keeping in healthful activity, the philanthropic spirit of a large section of Victorian society. Lady Clarke, by her earnest and practical devotion to the interests of humanity, combined with the genial and graceful discharge of the duties entailed by her husband’s prominent social position, has proved that God’s responsible gifts of wealth and influence have found in her a most worthy and Christian custodian. Our portrait is from a photograph by Freeman and Co., George-street, Sydney.

Lady Davies, wife of the Speaker of the Victorian House of Assembly (whose portrait has already appeared in this paper), is a woman whose graces of character eminently adorn her husband’s high political position. The advancement of her sex in all branches of education, from domestic accomplishments to college degrees, is one of the leading motives of her life. She is the founder of many useful institutions, among them that very practical Society the ‘Spinners,’ her aim in its establishment being to create in young women of leisure an interest in, and an active desire to serve, their less favoured fellows, and also to cultivate a taste for good literature, and concern in the politics of their country.

Lady Davies established the Convalescent Home for Men at Cheltenham, and entirely supported it for two years. She has built several cottages, where reduced gentlefolk may live rent free, and has devoted a large sum of money as a loan fund, from which the necessitous poor may borrow small sums, without interest, at times when a few pounds may mean to them home, health, or livelihood ; to be paid back in easy instalments, and lent out again to others in similar pecuniary need.

That our Australian women are fully alive to their privileges is evidenced by the wide use made by them, not only of the advantages opened up in a university education, and in private directions, but by their extensive patronage and support of all public institutions where knowledge and good instruction are available on feasible conditions ; and that their mental capacities are abundantly equal to the stern studies of the academical course is plainly proved by a perusal of the University Calendar, which shows the high rank attained by women in all branches.

The Illustrated Sydney News (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 6 June 1891, page 16

Editor’s notes:
un fait accompli= (French) an accomplished fact; something accomplished which is apparently irreversible

[Editor: Corrected ‘Spinners’,’ to ‘Spinners,’]

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