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The Sydney Female Refuge: some further reflections

In the 1980s, historians of colonial female refuges, and of the Sydney Female Refuge (SFR) in particular, tended to see these organisations, and by inference those who organised them, as largely punitive in intent. Contrary to the stated aims of the SFR, the driving motives are presented not primarily as compassion, concern and a desire to help the women themselves but rather as the protection of society from such women.[1]

O’Brien says that the function of the home of the Sydney Female Refuge Society (SFR Society) was largely punitive and that of all the homes of this sort ‘it seems colder and more horrible than most’.[2] Godden’s assessment is that the Sydney refuges for the prostitutes run by the Roman Catholics and the Evangelicals were repressive and harsh, but that

perhaps the greatest imperviousness to change was at the Protestant Sydney Female Refuge. It was rebuilt in 1903 on the same prison-like lines adhered to in 1848 and inmates were still addressed by number and not name.[3]

More recently published work, however, has sought to soften such an assessment and on a closer examination of the evidence has pointed out that such claims made about the functioning of the SFR do not seem to be justified[4] and that by their stated aims and practice the SFR ‘does not deserve to be regarded as punitive, repressive, self-serving, cold and horrible’.[5] While there are some signs of a more positive assessment of the refuges emerging some dubious claims about the refuges are still being made.

On the positive side and helpfully O’Brien, in her recently published Philanthropy and Settler Colonialism, reminds us that the refuges can be viewed more generally against the background of the need to provide women in various circumstances with shelter.[6] Such a need was clearly seen by the philanthropists themselves. Ann Goodlet, who was deeply involved in the SFR as its secretary and its leading worker, had this broader approach to the protection of women both physically and morally in colonial society.[7] She was significantly involved in founding and/or promoting of, to quote O’Brien, ‘homes that were arranged along the moral continuum’.[8] These were the Servants and Governesses Home (formerly known as The Sydney Female Home), the YWCA, the Sydney Female Mission Home (SFMH) and the SFR. The first two organisations were morally proactive being protective and preventative by providing accommodation for single women alone in the city. The second two organisations were reactive and designed to assist those women who were in trouble, having been seduced and abandoned or who were prostitutes wishing to change their lives.

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Ann Alison Goodlet nee Panton (1822- 1903), Presbyterian Philanthropist and missions promoter.

Ann Alison Goodlet

Ann Alison Goodlet

 Although Ann Alison Goodlet at her death attracted much praise for her charitable works, her kindness and loving concern, little appears to have been known about her background by either friends, acquaintances or admirers. Even the stained glass window that was erected in her honour at the Ashfield Presbyterian Church spelt her name incorrectly.[1] It seems to have been a characteristic of Ann and John Goodlet that neither said much about themselves. Ann is the forgotten Mrs Goodlet for while Elizabeth Mary Goodlet (nee Forbes), the second wife of John, has received some notice, Ann has been overlooked.

According to her death certificate, the simple facts about Ann Alison Goodlet are that she was born in 1827, arrived in New South Wales (NSW) in 1855 and died on 3rd January 1903. The background of Ann is, however, somewhat more complicated for Ann Alison Goodlet, the daughter of William Panton and his wife Ann Jane (nee Kent), was actually born in 1822 shortly before William and Ann left Scotland for the colony of NSW.[2]  Their ship was the Andromeda and the Reverend John Dunmore Lang, who was on his first voyage to NSW, was also a passenger. Lang noted in his diary that (more…)

New South Wales ‘secular’ education and the Public Schools League

Peter Garrett, a former Australian Federal Minister for School Education, puts Marion Maddox’s thesis in her book Taking God to School[1] in this way:

The Australian settlement established early consensus on the question of government support for religious schools, namely that it was undesirable. Education that was ‘free, compulsory and secular’ was the foundation stone on which a school system should be built. Maddox applauds the guiding instincts of politicians of the day who determined that government should enable this education model, led as they were by fears of sectarianism and the isolation of specific religions if the state supported religious schools. They also expressed an ideal about the kind of nation they wanted Australia to become: a fair country where every child would be well educated, each bound to the other in the same setting, without the added complication of religious affiliation getting in the way.[2]

The government of the colony of New South Wales under Henry Parkes certainly thought this way as did much of the population. The catch phrase used in the nineteenth century was ‘free, compulsory and secular’ and this slogan has been rejuvenated by the work of Maddox. While the argument of Maddox is worth weighing and given serious thought, and while Garrett’s review of her book begins to do this, there is a danger of misunderstanding the intentions of the nineteenth century discussion. In particular, there is the risk of believing that by the use of the word ‘secular’ the nineteenth century advocates of educational reform were seeking to eliminate religion from a state-funded school education system. Such a usage can been seen in Craig Campbell’s work ‘Free, compulsory and secular (more…)

Martha Malbon (1820-1901)

The Sydney Female Refuge Society (SRFS) was formed in Sydney on August 21, 1848, with the Motto ‘GO, AND SIN NO MORE’.[1] Its formation, which was probably patterned on similar overseas institutions such as the Magdalene Society of Edinburgh, arose out of the concern

that some hundreds of unhappy females were crowding the streets and lanes of the populous city, the disgrace of their sex, the common pest of Society, and a reproach to the religion we profess, but which had not led us to attempt anything for their improvement.[2]

The SFRS objectives were

the reclaiming of unfortunate and abandoned Females, by providing them with a place of Refuge in the first instance, and, after a period of probation, restoring them to their friends, or obtaining suitable employment for them.[3]

The Society was governed by a Gentleman’s Committee which looked after the finances and buildings, and a separate Ladies Committee which took care of the day-to-day administration of the Refuge. On the advice of the Ladies Committee, the Society appointed a Matron who, in cooperation with the Ladies Committee, was to oversee the care and organisation of the women who were admitted to the Refuge. One such matron was Martha Trelawney Grace Malbon née Day. Martha Day was born in Bristol, England, on August 19, 1820, to Edward Elmsall Day, a Surgeon, and his wife Martha Martin. In 1851, Martha was 31 years old and the governess to three children of the widowed Mary Jane Clifton (née Malbon) in Bristol. Sometime after March 1851, Martha left England and came to the colony of NSW and on August 28, 1852, at St James’ Church King Street, Sydney, she married William Malbon,[4] the uncle of her former students in England.

Martha Malbon

Martha Malbon

Martha’s husband William was the son of the distinguished Captain Micajah Malbon of the Royal Navy,[5] and the Governor of the Stapleton Depot for French prisoners of war.[6] William had arrived in the colony of NSW in 1850 and may have formerly been a soldier,[7] and he seems to have had good social connections within the colony for he was the cousin of John Thompson, the Deputy Surveyor General.[8]

William was involved in some capacity with the construction of the dry dock at Cockatoo Island, but was then employed in 1853 to oversee an unsuccessful attempt to sink a bore at Darlinghurst Gaol in order to supply Sydney with water.[9] He became unwell and the project came to a standstill. Around 1856,[10] William and Martha settled at Dapto, NSW, where William farmed on a property called Sunny Bank which was owned by the Rev Richard Allwood who was the minister of St James, King Street, Sydney. They remained at Sunny Bank until September 1861,[11] after which time their whereabouts and activities are difficult to establish with any certainty. In July 1862,[12] a William Malbon was appointed as acting Sub-Inspector of Police,[13] later being appointed as a Sub-Inspector.[14] As Malbon was not a common name in the colony this is probably Martha’s husband. He served at Eden and Moruya, Berrima and later in the Clarence region,[15] and his time spent with the police ended in 1866[16] when his appointment was terminated. It appears that William’s efforts, which were said to be high-handed and alienating, were not well received by the communities he was called to serve.[17] William resurfaced in 1870 having been appointed, upon the death of Thomas Smith, as Secretary of the Pyrmont Bridge Company.[18] This appointment ceased when the Pyrmont Bridge was sold to the NSW Government in 1884.[19]

William was an experimenter and inventor, but not one who succeeded commercially. In 1857, he was exhibiting examples of products made from Sorghum Saccharatum or Chinese sugar plant at the Agricultural and Horticultural Society (treacle, sugar and bran), and at the 1857 Dapto Agricultural Show he exhibited examples of colonial cochineal which he had produced.[20] At the Illawarra Agricultural Show the following year, he produced a broom for sweeping which he had manufactured from the sorghum plant. In addition to this, he also exhibited lucerne, rye-grass and clover seeds, and some wine which was considered worthy of a special prize. Malbon showed himself to be innovative, spirited and skilful in such experiments and production, but does not seem to ever have produced anything of continuing commercial value. Later, he was to announce a breakthrough in producing fire-proof wood[21] as well as a Non-Deviating Compass for Naval use.[22] The value of both these ‘inventions’ was disputed at the time by others and again never seem to have produced any commercial return. While William’s position as Secretary of the Pyrmont Bridge Company would have produced some income it would seem that he was an experimenter and inventor at heart, but not a great financial provider and at his death in 1890, his estate was only valued at £226. Martha’s position as Matron of the Female Refuge would have been welcome as it would have provided her with extra income. She was initially paid around £65 per annum which increased to £100 per annum in 1875, and she was also given housing.[23]

Martha was appointed Matron of the Sydney Female Refuge in March 1870.[24] The previous matron, a Mrs Wait, had resigned and in early 1870 the committee was advertising for a replacement.[25] The appointment was clearly in the hands of the Ladies Committee of the Refuge as applications were to be addressed to the (more…)

Teachers of the Ragged Schools

The Misses Bowie: Louisa (1834-1884), Jessie (1836-1906), Catherine (1838-1918), and Elizabeth (1840-1922); Isabella Brown (1858-1932), Fanny Owen-Smith (1859-1932) and Violet Paterson (1871-1948)

The Misses Bowie, Isabella Brown, Fanny Owen-Smith and Violet Paterson who taught in the Sydney Ragged Schools, are examples of the dedicated, female, vocational philanthropists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While they gave a lifetime of devoted service to the Ragged Schools, they have hardly left a mark on the historical record of the times. This was not because their work was insignificant, but because official reports and newspaper accounts of the day gave much more attention to the governance and financial philanthropists of the charity and gave little mention to those who did the actual work of the organisation. Because of this lack of attention, their work and contribution has largely gone unrecorded and uncommented upon, and the paucity of sources makes this difficult to adequately redress. (more…)

Edward Joy (1816-1898)

Edward Joy (1816-1898) Pastoralist and Ragged School Philanthropist

 Edward Joy was born on 18 June 1816 in Leeds, England, the second son of William Thomas Outhwaite Joy (1785-1855) and his wife Harriet Glover.  William, who had been an apprentice and journeyman with Mr Medley, a Leeds Chemist, Druggist and Oil Man, set up business on his own as a seed and oil merchant in 1807.[1] Later, William entered into partnership with his brother Edward, after whom his son was named, and operated the Thwaite Mills near Leeds in a partnership that was eventually dissolved in 1844.[2] William and Edward then each formed a partnership with their own sons. Unlike his family, Edward Junior, as he was known in Leeds to distinguish him from his very prominent uncle, did not remain in the seed and oil business,[3] but became the manager of the New Leeds Gas Company in 1841.[4] In 1843, Edward’s older brother William married Mary Holt[5] and in 1851, Edward married Mary’s sister Eliza.[6] The Joy and Holt families were thus closely linked in an association that Edward would continue in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) through his business partnerships with Thomas Holt,[7] his brother-in-law.

 In 1853, Edward and Eliza set sail for the colony of NSW as first class cabin passengers on the Walmer Castle and arrived in Sydney on 12 September 1853.[8] Edward soon set up business in Sydney, utilising his Holt family connections by forming a partnership with George Stranger Leathes, trading as Joy and Leathes, for the purchase of wool for consignments for Lovegrove and Leathes of London and Holt Brothers of Leeds.[9] By 1856, this partnership was dissolved and Edward formed Joy and Company[10] with Andrew Hinchcliff, a partnership which also purchased wool and exported it to England. In 1862, the company was dissolved,[11] but Joy continued to send wool to England on his own account. Joy was also concerned with wool production and entered into several partnerships with Thomas Holt and others in the purchase of leases at Salisbury Plains in the Kennedy District, north of Rockhampton in Queensland.[12] In 1864, in a decision that would materially affect the course of his life Edward, together with Thomas Holt, advanced money to a lessee on Wealwandangie, a property in Queensland.  The years 1866-1871 were years of serious depression in the industry with a drought being experienced in 1868, followed by floods in 1869.[13] The partnership with Holt had ended by 1870 after a dispute over Joy’s exercise of power of attorney while his brother-in-law was absent in England during 1866-1868.[14] This matter was the subject of litigation between Holt and Joy and, although it was eventually settled by mediation, it must have soured family relationships.[15] The end result was that Joy sold his share to Holt in 1870 for some £24,000 (in excess of $3 million current value)[16] and then returned to England.

 While Joy was to spend only 20 years in the colony, during which time he acquired a modest fortune, he was to make a significant philanthropic contribution to NSW by his championing the cause of the Ragged School movement.[17] Edward and Eliza do not appear to have had any children of their own and they did not have any (more…)

William Crane (1826-1914)

William Crane, (1826-1914) Magistrate and Governance Philanthropist

William Crane was born on October 5, 1826, at Castlereagh Street, Sydney. He was the son of William Christopher Crane (1799-1876)[1] a publican who was the landlord of the Leather Bottle Inn in Castlereagh Street[2] and Sarah McAvoy (1802-1857). He was educated at the Sydney College under the headmastership of William Timothy Cape[3] and his fellow students included Sir James Martin, William Bede Daley, Sir Henry Stephen and Thomas Alexander Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood).[4] In his youth William was a keen sportsman. He was a cricketer and active member of the Newtown Cricket Club from its formation in 1858,[5] a boxer,[6] and a strong swimmer, frequently swimming the considerable distance from The Fig Tree, Woolloomooloo, to Garden Island and back.[7]

In the 1850s, Crane and a number of companions went to the Ophir and Turon goldfields where he appears to have been unsuccessful in his gold prospecting unlike his younger brother, Christopher, who struck it rich at Gulgong.[8]  He returned to Sydney and became a law clerk in the law practice of solicitor Joseph Frey Josephson [9] after which, in 1853[10], he entered the New South Wales civil service as a clerk in the Department of Police.[11] He was appointed clerk of Petty Sessions, Water Police in 1861,[12] a magistrate of the colony in 1869,[13] and then in 1875 Clerk of Petty Sessions in the Central Police court.[14] In 1882, Crane was appointed one of Sydney’s first stipendiary magistrates[15] and officiated at the Central Court until his retirement in 1885.[16] He was highly regarded and an able magistrate as illustrated by, for the time, an unusual occurrence in his court when a young man stepped into the witness box, and when the Bible was tendered, shut the book. Said Mr Crane to him: “Why did you shut the book?” He said: “I am a Liberal or Freethinker.” He further stated he had no belief in the Bible, and there was nothing binding on his conscience, and he objected to take an oath. This at first seemed rather puzzling and brought the proceedings to a sudden standstill.[17]

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