Woman Walker, Eadith
Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University
Eadith Walker was born in Sydney in 1861, the only child of merchant Thomas Walker and his wife Jane. Taught from childhood that wealth involved responsibilities, after she inherited her father's fortune in 1886 she expanded the family mansion which she then used to host balls, bazaars and other fund-raising functions in aid of charity, women's education and the arts. She continued to support her father's philanthropic foundations and also joined the committees of hospitals and charities which provided assistance to women and children.
The pattern of her philanthropy changed during World War I when she became very actively involved with Red Cross. She established a camp at her home for the treatment of soldiers repatriated because of tuberculosis and promoted causes designed to support men on active service. Although she continued to host fund-raising events at her home after the war, former servicemen became the primary focus of her giving, leading her to be acclaimed as 'the friend of returned men' (Sydney Morning Herald, 4 June 1928). In addition to providing convalescent facilities she made grants to help them to build homes or to establish themselves in small businesses or on the land (West Australian, 4 June 1928).
Walker was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1918 and a Dame Commander in 1928 in recognition of her philanthropic efforts. Reflecting her conservative politics, her philanthropy was essentially ameliorative. She used her wealth to benefit individuals and organisations with whom she sympathised and had no commitment to bringing about broader social change. On her death in 1937, it was the 'quiet philanthropy' of her later years for which she was remembered (Singleton Argus, 11 October 1937). The bulk of her estate was set aside to maintain a hospital founded after her father's death, and to convert the family mansion into a sub-acute hospital, named in her honour (Sydney Morning Herald, 1 July 1940). A large number of charitable, education and arts organisations received small bequests (Sydney Morning Herald, 26 May 1938).
- Skehan, Patricia, The Walkers of Yaralla: the History of Thomas Walker and Dame Eadith Walker, Patricia Skehan Publishing, Concord, New South Wales, 2000. Details
- 'Personal Notes', The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 4 June 1928, p. 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16469538. Details
- 'Dame Eadith Walker', The West Australian (Perth, Western Australia), 4 June 1928, p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32116107. Details
- 'Death of Dame Eadith Walker', The Singleton Argus (New South Wales), 11 October 1937, p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81907484. Details
- 'Distributions to Charity', The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 26 May 1938, p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17468650. Details
- 'New Hospital', The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 1 July 1940. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17684526. Details
- 'Walker, Eadith Campbell (1861 - 1937)', The Australian Women's Register, National Foundation for Australian Women, http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP0056b.htm. Details
- MacCulloch, Jennifer, 'Walker, Dame Eadith Campbell (1861 - 1937)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University (ANU), c.2006, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/walker-dame-eadith-campbell-1100/text15745. Details
- Skehan, Patricia, 'Walker, Eadith', in Dictionary of Sydney, Dictionary of Sydney Trust, 2010, http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/walker_eadith. Details