Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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  • The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia

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Walker, Eadith Campbell (1861 - 1937)

Dame, DBE, CBE

Born
18 September 1861
The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died
8 October 1937
Occupation
Philanthropist

Summary

Dame Eadith Walker was the sole heir of merchant and pastoralist Thomas Walker. Over the course of her life she gave very generously of her time and money to a wide range of charitable causes, including substantial sums to the women's college at the University of Sydney, and to the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital.

Details

Born in Sydney in 1861, Eadith was the only child of merchant Thomas Walker. Her mother died when Eadith was not yet ten years old, and she was raised by her aunt Joanna at the Walker property, Yaralla at Concord. Eadith was taught to take her wealth seriously from an early age, and this lesson came to the fore when she inherited her father's fortune of just under £1 million in 1886 at the age of 25, though her cousin, James Thomas Walker, was appointed executor of the will. Thomas Walker's wealth had come from his interests as a merchant, pastoralist and shipowner. He was born at Leith, Scotland, in 1804 and emigrated to Australia in 1822 to work with his uncle, later taking charge of the business.

Eadith Walker had a wide range of interests and a sincere love of sport and animals. She was an executive member of what is now the RSPCA, vice-president of the Sydney Rowing Club and patron of the Yaralla cricket club. She was involved with the Queen's Jubilee Fund, the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children and the Royal Hospital for Women, where she served as vice-president of the auxiliary in 1922. Dame Eadith was a member of the council of the new Women's College at the University of Sydney for two years from 1893. Between 1895 and 1930, she offered an annual scholarship of £50 - known as the Yaralla Scholarship - to go to a high achieving student wishing to reside at the College, but requiring financial assistance to do so. To the original building fund she subscribed £1,000, to be paid over only when the fund had reached £4,000 by public subscription. During wartime, through to 1920, Eadith set up a camp at Yaralla where she accommodated and cared for soldiers suffering from tuberculosis, 32 at a time. She donated a second home, 'Leura', for use by consumptive soldiers, and established a library at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Eadith was heavily involved with the Australian Red Cross Society, as a member of its executive committee, and the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. She continued to support the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital, founded with a £100,000 gift from her father, as well as various religious and educational institutions including her local church.

Eadith Walker was awarded the C.B.E. in 1918 and the D.B.E. in 1928. She died at Yaralla in 1937, leaving her £265,345 estate to the Walker Trusts.

Sources used to compile this entry: Lemon, Barbara, 'In Her Gift: Activism and Altruism in Australian Women's Philanthropy, 1880-2005', PhD thesis, School of Historical Studies, University of Melbourne, 2008; MacCulloch, J., 'Walker, Dame Eadith Campbell (1861 - 1937)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120398b.htm; Skehan, Patricia, The Walkers of Yaralla: The History of Thomas Walker and Dame Eadith Walker, P. Skehan Publishing, Concord, NSW, 2000.

Archival resources

National Library of Australia

  • Order of Service for the Dedication of the Dame Eadith Walker, D.B.E., Memorial Fence, Gates and Floodlights by The Most Reverend Howard West Kilvington Mowll, D.D., 20 September 1941; National Library of Australia. Details

State Library of New South Wales

  • Dame Eadith Walker with wreath, possibly Anzac Day, Sydney, c. 1920, At Work and Play - 05516; O.R. Miller, Sydney; State Library of New South Wales. Details

Clare Land and Barbara Lemon

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP0056b.htm

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