Woman Green, Anne Syrett

Philanthropist and Welfare worker

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Anne Green was born in 1858 in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, the sixth child of butcher, Henry Green and his wife, Emma. She was educated at the local Presbyterian Common School, and in 1877 moved with her family to Adelaide where she began to volunteer at the City Mission. In 1881 she was appointed to a staff position at the Mission beginning what was to become her life's work.

In 1897 Green returned to the mission after a decade working for the YWCA and later as a travelling evangelist. She established a branch in a working-class district of North Adelaide, establishing a committee through her friend, Ruth Nesbit, to raise most of the funds needed for the expansion. Initially she seemed reticent to challenge gender norms. When she presented at paper at the first national city mission conference in 1905, she justified her appearance by claiming that the paper had been written by a colleague and she had only agreed to read it (Advertiser, 26 May 1905). However, she became increasingly uncomfortable with the mission's male managers, resentful of their close supervision, and of their reluctance to pay her more than a minimal salary. It was only when women were appointed to the mission committee that her requests for a salary increases saw her being paid a sum equivalent to a female factory worker's wage (Green, 53).Twice she resigned, but was persuaded to return with the guarantee that she would have a free hand in running her branch. Rather than make monthly reports to the Committee, she insisted that it sent visitors to her (Green, 54). When, in 1921, the Mission was unable to recruit a male missionary for its central operation it handed responsibility over to the Salvation Army. Supporters of Green protested, and in 1923 Green was appointed as the Mission's first female superintendent, taking control back from the Army (Register, Adelaide, 22 February 1923).

Her appointment was greeted in gendered terms. The work of the mission required a 'wide sympathy, an innate love of humanity, and a firm belief in ultimate good', characteristics which were coded female (Mail, 17 February 1923). In her new role Green was credited with re-organising the Mission, working with women and girls, but also building an alliance with the State Government to establish a soup kitchen and night shelter for unemployed men (Advertiser, 15 April 1936). She also oversaw the training of young women to work as City Mission Sisters (Register, 17 July 1925). The type of assistance she dispensed, however, varied little from its nineteenth-century origins; recipients were offered goods rather than money, and were expected to regularly attend mission services (Mail, 17 February 1923).

During the Depression, Green represented the Mission on the city's council of charity organisations established to co-ordinate the response to the growing hardship (Advertiser, 28 September 1928). However, she was criticised by the unemployed for her claim that 'while there are 4000 men up against it, there are 1000 who are just making capital out of sympathy' (Advertiser, 3 July 1928). While she was prepared to face her accusers, Miss Green refused to recant, arguing that the 'genuine unemployed' would not 'degrade their manhood' by begging (Advertiser, 3 July 1928).

Published Resources


  • Green, Esther, Evergreen Annie: The Life of Annie Green of the Adelaide City Mission, 1858-1936, Adelaide City Mission, Adelaide, South Australia, 1988. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

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