Catherine Spence (1825 – 1910) writer, preacher, reformer and feminist
In 1872 Catherine Spence helped found the Boarding-Out Society, to board orphaned, destitute and reformed delinquent children in the homes of families, and visit them to check on their behaviour and treatment. She became one of Australia’s first female preachers.
Catherine Spence, writer, preacher, reformer and feminist, was born on 31 October 1825 near Melrose, Scotland, daughter of David Spence, lawyer and banker, and his wife Helen, née Brodie.
In 1872 Catherine Spence helped found the Boarding-Out Society, to board orphaned, destitute and reformed delinquent children in the homes of families, and visit them to check on their behaviour and treatment.
She was an official of the society in 1872-86 and worked strenuously as a visitor. When the State Children’s Council was established in 1886 she became a member, and was later a member of the Destitute Board.
Most of her work for education was done with her pen. Spence supported the foundation of kindergartens and a government secondary school for girls. In 1877 she was appointed to the School Board for East Torrens, an ineffectual and short-lived body. Her book, The Laws We Live Under(1880), was the first social studies textbook used in Australian schools, and anticipated similar courses in the other colonies by twenty years.
Spence had become an enthusiast for electoral reform in 1859 when she read J. S. Mill’s review of Thomas Hare’s system of proportional representation. In 1861 she wrote, printed (at her brother’s expense) and distributed A Plea for Pure Democracy. Mr. Hare’s Reform Bill Applied to South Australia, but she commented, ‘it did not set the Torrens on fire’.
Though she later claimed that the system had been her life’s major cause, she ignored it between 1861 and 1892, except to inject a discussion of it into Mr. Hogarth’s Will and visit Hare when she was holidaying in Britain in 1864-65. She had initially presented Hare’s scheme as a means of ensuring representation of minorities by men of virtue, learning and intelligence, which was seen as conservative support of privilege. In 1892 she propounded the modified Hare-Spence system as the only way of attaining truly proportionate representation of political parties, an argument well suited to the current political climate of the colony.
By then Spence had acquired greater confidence and become an accomplished public speaker, a process that had begun when she read papers to the South Australian Institute, being the first woman to do so, and brought her acclaim when she addressed the Australasian conferences on charity in 1891 and 1892.
Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A060190b.htm
Catherine Helen Spence
Catherine Helen Spence
In celebration of the Centenary of Australia’s Federation, the Reserve Bank of Australia issued a commemorative $5 note in January 2001. http://www.rba.gov.au/Museum/Displays/1988_onwards_polymer_currency_notes/centenary_of_federation.html
Catherine Helen Spence (1825–1910) was a journalist, social reformer and novelist. Viewed as the leading woman in South Australian public affairs at the turn of the century, Spence was in the vanguard of efforts to enhance women’s rights, child welfare and electoral reform. She became one of Australia’s first female preachers. Spence was our first female political candidate, contesting unsuccessfully the election for delegates to the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention. http://www.rba.gov.au/Museum/Displays/_Images/1988_Onwards/catherine_helen_spence_5_dollar_note_back_big.jpg
Influential Australian Christians depicted on Australian notes and coins
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