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Wilhelmina Logan Stanger-Leaves (1826-1919); philanthropist in Bowral and beyond

Wilhelmina Logan Stanger-Leaves was the daughter of Thomas and Jane Ranken and was born in Ayr, Scotland, in 1826 and died in Sydney in 1919.[1] She was married in Scotland in 1850[2] to George Graham Stewart of Bombay,[3] but it seems that her husband died not long after their marriage. By 1859 she, known in the family as Willie, was living with her mother Mrs Thomas Ranken at Kyle, near Marulan, NSW, on the property of her uncle Arthur Ranken.[4]  In 1868, she married Alfred Stanger-Leaves (1822-1895)[5] a company manager, and it was also his second marriage. His first wife Maria died in 1865 having borne Arthur seven children who were aged 17, 16, 14, 11, 9, 7 and 6 when he married Wilhelmina and she immediately became ‘mother’. The ceremony for Alfred and Wilhelmina was conducted by the Presbyterian Rev William Ross at Marulan, NSW, on Wilhelmina’s uncle’s property Lockyersleigh. Wilhelmina had no children from either of her marriages.[6]

Alfred had arrived in NSW in 1842 and was involved in various ways in the mining industry, principally in a copper mining and smelting operating on the Island of Kawan,[7] New Zealand, around 1846 until 1851.[8] The ore was mined and smelted on the island and shipped to London via Sydney, and he also exported a minor amount of gold to England.[9] He and his first wife Maria and child returned to England in 1852, returning to Sydney in 1854.[10]

On the amalgamation of the Australasian, Colonial and General Fire and Life Insurance and Annuity Company with the Liverpool, London and Global Insurance Company in August 1854, and the resignation of the resident secretary Robert Styles, Alfred was appointed its secretary. He held this position until 1880[11] when he resigned and was appointed to the board of directors in which position he continued until his death in 1895.[12] At one time, he was also a director of the Colonial Sugar-refining Company (1870-1880, 1882-1883).[13] In 1892, Alfred built The Rift at Bowral on a property of 20 acres which was described as having been erected by Alfred ‘regardless of cost, and with mature judgement and excellent taste”.[14] Alfred had become a wealthy man and on his death in 1895 his estate was valued at £52,000 ($7.88M current value) with shares in excess of £23,000 ($3.50M current value).[15]

Stanger Leathes Family Crest

Wilhelmina’s marriage to Alfred granted her a social standing that she would use to good effect in promoting her philanthropic interests. She appears to have had the contacts and social standing required to persuade the wife of various Governors to be present or to chair meetings or open a garden party for causes in which she was involved. The name ‘Stanger-Leathes’ sounded somewhat pretentious and perhaps went down well in ‘fashionable’ circles. It was derived from Alfred’s family background for when his ancestor Thomas Leathes died in England in 1806 his estate, consisting mainly in Lake Thirlmere in Cumberland, was entailed away to his cousin Thomas Stanger who changed his name to include that of his beneficiary and so the family became known as Stanger Leathes. It would appear, however, from two anecdotes in the Bulletin, that Alfred, at least, much preferred to simply use Leathes. Firstly, according to the Bulletin:

The late Edward Deas-Thomson, before his knighthood, was a director at Sydney of the Liverpool and London and Global Insurance Co., [sic] at which Alfred Stanger-Leathes was secretary. At a board meeting one day, Mr Thomson said “Mr Leathes ___ “ “I beg your pardon. Mr Thomson, my name is Stanger-Leathes”  “And mine,” quoth the ex-Imperialist, “is Deas-Thomson.’[16]

But in a second anecdote in an issue of the Bulletin shortly after the first was published another correspondent, Charlton Park,[17] a former work colleague of Alfred, said:

Your informant … has turned things upside down. These are the facts:- Mr Deas-Thomson (loq.): “Mr Deas-Thomson if you please, Mr Leathes.” Mr. Stanger-Leathes (promptly): “Mr. Stanger-Leathes, if you please, Mr. Deas-Thomson.” … Mr. Leathes was the last man to take the initiative in such a matter. I was in daily intercourse with him for more than 20 years, and never addressed him, nor heard him addressed, even by his most intimate acquaintances, otherwise than as “Mr Leathes” or “Leathes.”[18]

Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution

After her marriage to Alfred, Wilhelmina, then aged 42 and though herself childless but with numerous children from her husband’s first marriage, began to involve herself in charity work. In 1870, she became a member of the Ladies Visiting Committee of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution and she continued in this work for eight years until 1877.[19]

Sick Children’s Hospital, Glebe

In 1878, Wilhelmina’s attention turned to supporting the founding of a Children’s Hospital for which she was a member of the Ladies Committee.[20] The hospital became known as the Sydney Hospital for Sick Children and Wilhelmina was an elected member of the governing board, a position which she held from 1880 until 1898.[21] The committee often held its meetings in the Board Room of the Liverpool, London and Global Insurance Company of which Alfred had been the Secretary and of which, by this time, he was a director.

Sydney Hospital for Sick Children

Kindergarten Union

Wilhelmina had been a supporter of the Kindergarten Union (KU) from at least 1899 when she was elected a vice president of KU[22] along with Lady Darley, Lady Harris and Dr Sydney Jones. She remained a member of the governing committee at least until 1904[23] and often attended the various social functions associated with the kindergarten teachers training college.[24] Dr Sydney Jones explained that the KU was established in August 1895 with the principal objects of training teachers and establishing kindergartens in poor neighbourhoods.[25] In 1897, the government gave a grant of £150 with additional support coming from the public, and Mrs Stanger Leathes set up a “Helpers Fund” the yearly income from which went to the support of the training college.[26]

Miss Frances Newton, an American, was appointed principal of the Kindergarten Training College in Sydney in 1902 and the College was managed by the KU.[27]  In 1905, she observed that before she came to Sydney the kindergarten movement “… was worked more on philanthropic lines, but it is now regarded as an educational work” which she said was shown by the fact that the Government subsidy for it had been transferred from the vote for philanthropy to the vote for educational purposes.[28] Newtown’s observation discerned a trend, but the Free Kindergarten movement still benefited from the philanthropically inclined such as Wilhelmina.

At her death in 1919, the KU expressed a

deep debt of gratitude to Mrs Stanger Leathes for her generosity in providing a bursary at the Kindergarten Training College for over 15 years. This large-hearted and generous action enabled many girls who otherwise would have had to seek other avenues of employment to take the kindergarten training.[29]

Her interest in child development was further shown through her activities in Bowral where she and Alfred had gone to live at The Rift, their country residence.

The Rift Bowral

Kindergartens had been introduced to Bowral as early as 1896, but on October 8, 1901, Wilhelmina took the leading role in founding a Free Kindergarten,[30] the first outside of Sydney. Wilhelmina had invited Miss Buckey, the former Principal of the kindergarten training school to Bowral where she addressed a meeting at The Rift on the ‘value of kindergarten work from both a moral and intellectual standpoint’.[31] The influence of Wilhelmina’s contacts and her experience with the KU is clearly seen in this advocacy of kindergarten education. She had purchased land and the building for the Bowral Free Kindergarten[32] which was commenced at her instigation by the Bowral Ministering Children’s League (MCL).[33] At the opening of this Kindergarten, for which she had assumed all financial responsibility, she said:

A few years ago a Free Kindergarten School was started in Woolloomooloo. Those who commenced it were so struck with its importance that they formed a Free Kindergarten Union. They sent to America for a competent teacher, and secured the services of Miss Buckley [sic], who was present that afternoon. She took up her position as principal of the training college four years ago. At the present time there were three Free Kindergarten Schools in Sydney with 800 children -Woolloomooloo, the Rocks, and Newtown. The meaning of the word Kindergarten was child-garden, and the idea was to influence the children at the time when their minds were most impressionable.[34]

In 1903, a meeting was held in Wilhelmina’s drawing room at Bowral to form a branch of the Child Study Association and the meeting was addressed by the Association’s President, Dr Alan Carroll.[35]  The Association’s purpose was according to Carroll to ‘examine children and remove any defects they may have in their bodies, senses, or mental organs or any abnormal characteristics’ and Wilhelmina became President of the Bowral branch. It was agreed they should seek likeminded people who would desire among children to ‘promote and carry our measures which would prevent degeneration into intemperance, leading to delinquency, or mental defects.’[36]

Ministering Children’s League

The Countess of Meath

In 1892, Wilhelmina was following the work of the Countess of Meath in England, when she became the founder and President of the Bowral branch of the Ministering Children’s League[37] whose motto was ‘No day without a deed to crown it’.[38] MCL was described from all Wilhelmina’s activities as her ‘first love’.[39] It was an organisation which spawned its own program as well as the Free Kindergarten and the Our Boy’s Institute (OBI) all of which were located at a house and land Wilhelmina had donated to the organising committee. This donated cottage in Rose Street, Bowral, was where she had erected facilities for the Kindergarten and the OBI. The MCL also used the premises for its ministry which included providing respite care for poor and sick children from the city of Sydney.[40] In 1894, it was reported that some 28 poor and delicate children from Sydney had been enabled, due to the MCL, to spend some weeks in Bowral during the summer.[41] The Rev J Penman, one of the vice presidents said that

… the objects of the league were comprehensive. Certain classes of an industrial character had been established for the lads … the boys’ class for carpentry, and their handiwork was to be seen on one of the stalls. Another class was devoted to tin smithing and plumbing, which enabled the boys not only to be of use to themselves but to others. Bookbinding was also taught by another teacher. In addition to the educative influences-of the league, it was nice to have the boys meet together to keep them off the streets. The classes met at 7:30 at night, and if a boy absented himself a certain number of times, inquiry was made of the boy’s parents, to see whether he had been spending his evenings where he ought not. They also had a class in the winter for girls, who made clothing for the poor, thus helping people who needed help in the district, and so not letting a day go past without a good deed being done.[42]

The committee of the MCL also held various fundraising efforts, garden parties, fetes and so on and the money raised supported its respite ministry and the work of the Free Kindergarten.[43] When she moved back to Sydney in 1904, Wilhelmina continued to be elected as the titular President, but her role was purely nominal.

Our Boy’s Institution

The OBI objects were ‘the moral, social, physical and intellectual improvement of its members’[44] and Wilhelmina was President from 1896.[45] The OBI was a development of the successful Boy’s Working Class of the MCL. The classes had been run successfully for the previous three years and now required more helpers and accommodation, and Wilhelmina had agreed to fund the expansion of the building of the MCL to facilitate this growing and successful program. Its classes included ‘Carpentering … Mechanics … Bootmaking … Bookbinding, engraving … Physical drill’ all of which were conducted by local men. The Institution was seen locally as ‘an admirable institution in the town, as through its agency many young men have received such instruction in carpentry and other trades as to qualify them for the battle of life.’[46] More prosaically the ‘greatest value of the institute was that it provided a means of keeping the boys off the street, and gave them wholesome occupation.’[47] While Wilhelmina took no active part in the activities of the OBI, apart from the provision of a work room, it was agreed that ‘Mrs Leathes may proudly lay claim to a large share of the success which has attended this branch of the league.’[48]

Women’s Industrial Guild

Wilhelmina was a joint treasurer of the Exhibition of Women’s Industries and Centenary Fair which was held in the spring of 1888,[49] and she supported attempts to give assistance to the women of Ireland with the Donegal Industrial Fund.[50] In a similar local effort, she was the prime mover in the inauguration of the Women’s Industrial League in 1891,[51] later reformed as the Woman’s Industrial Guild (WIG).[52] The inauguration was carried out in the board room of the Liverpool, London and Global Insurance Company and was presided over by Lady Jersey. Wilhelmina, who became its president, said that the League had been formed because “Gentlewomen … in distressed circumstances were unhappily too numerous in this country, and private efforts had been made to assist them” but clearly she thought a more public approach through such an organisation was needed.[53] It was proposed

to take orders for any work that can be done by women. Plain and art needlework, mending and darning, cake and jam-making &c. As there will be one place to send to, it simplifies matters for all. It will be possible to lend a helping hand also to the Donegal Fund, by ordering the materials for work which cannot be had in this country.[54]

In 1893, the WIG[55] reported that

The guild has already done much to enable ladies, whose position has suffered so much through the recent financial crisis, and whose physical condition unfits them for very active employment, to sell their handiwork at remunerative prices …[56]

Each year since its formation the Guild had run at a loss and while it may have done much good, by 1894 the Guild’s life had finished its course and due to its continuing financial shortfalls was closed at the end of the year.[57]


Women’s Industrial League Guild


Upon moving to Bowral in 1892 Wilhelmina, perhaps feeling a little intellectually isolated, became Secretary of the newly-formed Bowral circle of the Home Reading Union.[58] The purpose of the union was to provide reading material to isolated communities through the supply of a monthly journal containing articles which dealt with, among other things, history, science and literature.[59] This was clearly an expression of Wilhelmina’s love for reading and learning as she was one who was described as having a ‘highly cultivated mind which always kept abreast of the literature of the time’.[60]

In Bowral, Wilhelmina was a public figure with a significant social profile. In 1899, she became Vice President of the Sick and Poor Relief Society and in doing so had moved from enlisting prominent persons to give legitimacy, public recognition and support to her own philanthropic interests to being so enlisted herself. For it seems most likely that she merely lent her name to the Society but contributed, apart perhaps some funds, little else.[61] As part of this public figure profile she opened fetes and garden parties for organisations[62] and was a patron for the community children’s fancy dress ball.[63] Her property The Rift was often the venue for garden parties and fetes for various charitable and social events.

Last Days

In 1904, Wilhelmina returned to Sydney to live firstly at Potts Point then, in 1914, at Woollahra.[64] In the main, her activities consisted of attending rather than organising ‘at homes’ and social events in respect of her charitable interests. She had been described as a ‘household word in Bowral’[65] and one newspaper cheekily suggested that ‘as Mayoress of Bowral, [she] would make things hum’[66] for she was always involved in some good cause and philanthropic endeavour. She mainly did this locally on a small scale in Bowral, but her embrace of the KU and the kindergarten movement, which she began before she went to Bowral and that she actively maintained even up to the last few weeks of her life,[67] and her support of the Sick Children’s Hospital, was to have wider implications and encouraged others to support these causes. As one obituary said, ‘her interests were so wide and her reading so extensive; her love of humanity so great that to be with her was an inspiration to greater efforts to help others.’[68]


Dr Paul F Cooper

Research Fellow Christ College, Sydney

The appropriate way to cite this article is as follows:

Paul F Cooper. Wilhelmina Logan Stanger-Leaves (1826-1919); philanthropist in Bowral and beyond Philanthropy and Philanthropists in Australian Colonial History, December 18, 2018. Available at  https:/

[1] She was Born: 7 Jan 1826; Baptism Date: 6 Feb 1826; Baptism Place:             Ayr, Ayr, Scotland; Father:   Thomas Rankin; Mother:  Jane Campbell Logan. Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014; The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), June 19, 1919, 6.

[2] 12 February 1850, Scotland, Select Marriages, 1561-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

[3] 1851 Scotland Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006 which indicates she was a widow; SMH, July 15, 1868, 8.

[4] SMH, December 28, 1859, 1; W.B. Ranken, The Rankens of Bathurst, (Sydney: S D Townsend & Co, 1916), 44.

[5] Goulburn Herald (Goulburn, NSW), June 12, 1895, 2.

[6] 1851 Scottish Census WL Stewart Dryfesdale, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

[7] James Hector, M. D., F. R. S., Director Geological Survey of New Zealand, On Mining in New Zealand, [Abstract of Lectures delivered at the Colonial Museum, Wellington, on July 24 and 31, and August 21 and 28, 1869.], 375-376, [accessed 2/10/2018]

[8] He travelled to New Zealand with John Taylor a partner in the venture in 1847; The Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List, August 21, 1847, 578; and imported ore from New Zealand and sought to employ miners to work in New Zealand.  SMH, August 29, 1849, 2; March 19, 1851, 3.

[9] 153 ounces. The Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List, August 31, 1852, 238.

[10] The Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List, April 3, 1852, 90; March 20, 1854, 54.

[11]  SMH, March 10, 1880, 5.

[12] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), June 12, 1895, 5.

[13] A G Lowndes (Editor), South Pacific Enterprise: The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1956), 418.

[14] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), September 5, 1900, 3. The Rift was part of the original grant of 4200 acres made to John Norton Oxley and Henry Molesworth Oxley on 15/8/1855. This grant was later subdivided in 1881 into what was known as the Gibraltar estate. Lots 74-77 of the Gibraltar Estate were sold in 1882, again in 1885 and in 1890 to Alfred Stanger Leathes for £475. Over the following 5 years Alfred Leathes purchased another 6 surrounding lots of the East Bowral Gibraltar Estate. The Rift was constructed by Stanger Leathes after he purchased the Bowral property in 1890. (Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), September 26, 1891, 3). On his death, his will bequeathed to his second wife, 8 lots of the East Bowral Gibraltar Estate. The contents of The Rift were offered for auction in 1914 and The Rift was sold on behalf of Wilhelmina, Leathes’ second wife, to Jane Chalmers Campbell of Bowral for £3000.

[15] Alfred Stanger-Leathes, Deceased Estate Papers, Z14796 [20/7050] NSW State Archives and Records.

[16] The Bulletin, Vol. 11 No. 615, November 28, 1891, 12.

[17] SMH, 28 Feb 1872, 2.

[18] The Bulletin, Vol. 11 No. 622, January 16, 1892, 11.

[19] DDBI 50th Anniversary Report.

[20] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), August 26, 1878, 2.

[21] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), January 10, 1880, 88; SMH, January 24, 1882, 3; The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), April 20, 1898, 2; The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), April 13, 1897, 3.

[22] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), August 8, 1899, 2.

[23]  SMH, June 22, 1904, 5.

[24]  SMH, August 20, 1909, 10.

[25] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), June 8, 1900, 8.

[26] Ridie Lee Buckey ‘A Kindergartner’s Tour Around the World’, Kindergarten Magazine, Vol XV-September, 1902- June 1903, 169.

[27]  SMH, November 17, 1902, 7.

[28] Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), September 20, 1905, 9.

[29] SMH, July 12, 1919, 9.

[30]  Bowral Free Press (Bowral NSW), October 11, 1902, 2.

[31] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), October 19, 1901, 1009.

[32] Bowral Free Press (Bowral NSW), December 3, 1904, 2.

[33] Bowral Free Press (Bowral NSW), April 16, 1902, 3.

[34] Bowral and Robertson Free Press (Bowral, NSW), October 9, 1901, 2. The teacher from America was actually Ridie Lee Buckey who wrote an account of her time in Australia ‘A Kindergartner’s Tour Around the World’, Kindergarten Magazine, Vol XV-September, 1902- June 1903, 169;    SMH, November 6, 1901, 5.

[35] Alan Carroll, 1827-1911, was the founder, director and manager of the Royal Anthropological Society of Australasia and edited its journal “The Science of Man” until his death in 1911. He arrived in Sydney c.1885 and worked as a paediatric specialist. A founder of the Kindergarten Union and Child Study Association; a founder of the Australasian Anthropological Society 1896. [accessed 8/10/2018].

[36] Science of Man, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Australia, 2, 6, March 21, 1903, 19-20.

[37] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), December 14, 1892, 2; [accessed 6/10/2018]

[38] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), May 27, 1896, 2.

[39] The Southern Mail (Bowral, NSW), June 20, 1919, 2.

[40] The Southern Mail (Bowral, NSW), June 20, 1919, 2.

[41] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), April 21, 1894, 2.

[42] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), January 16, 1897, 2.

[43] Bowral Free Press (Bowral, NSW), July 15, 1905, 2.

[44] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), April 18, 1896, 3.

[45] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), May 29, 1897, 2.

[46] Bowral Free Press (Bowral, NSW), December 3, 1904, 2.

[47] The Wollondilly Press (Bowral, NSW), April 14, 1906, 2.

[48] Bowral Free Press (Bowral, NSW), December 3, 1904, 2.

[49] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), December 3, 1887, 1173.

[50] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), August 1, 1891, 4.

[51] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), February 29, 1892, 3.

[52] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), May 12, 1892, 5.

[53] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), August 27, 1891, 5.

[54] The Dawn (Sydney, NSW), September 1, 1891, 12.

[55] Illustrated Sydney News (Sydney, NSW), December 9, 1893, 7.

[56] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), December 9, 1893, 1208.

[57]  SMH, November 17, 1894, 7.

[58] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), September 3, 1892, 555.

[59] Goulburn Evening Penny Post (Goulburn, NSW), August 18, 1892, 4.

[60] The Southern Mail (Bowral, NSW), June 20, 1919, 2.

[61] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), July 1, 1899, 2.

[62] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), December 16, 1899, 3.

[63] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), January 6, 1894, 2.

[64] Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), July 17, 1907, 43; Sydney Mail (Sydney, NSW), March 25, 1914, 22.

[65] The Southern Mail (Bowral, NSW), June 20, 1919, 2.

[66] Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (Bowral, NSW), December 9, 1893, 2.

[67] SMH, July 12, 1919, 9.

[68] SMH, July 12, 1919, 9.

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