Woman Buxton, Rita


Charity Worker and Philanthropist

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Rita Buxton was born in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra in 1896, the only child of civil servant and later company director, Charles Neunhoeffer and his wife Emma. Educated at Sacre Coeur Convent she lived and travelled with her family until her marriage to real estate agent Leonard Buxton in 1922. The couple lived with Rita's parents. Leonard entered his father-in-law's company, and Rita was the major beneficiary of her father's considerable estate following his death in 1935 (Central Queensland Herald, 14 February 1935). Together the couple had three children.

A keen race horse owner, golfer and socialite, Buxton's entree to charity work came through the Toorak auxiliary of Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital which she joined in 1927. Nine years later she had risen to become president of the central executive of auxiliaries, the powerhouse of both fund-raising and volunteer work for the hospital. During the war she organised the hospitals' volunteers, working in the laundry herself. In 1947 she became the first woman apart from the Mother Rectress on the hospital's advisory council and, in 1958, a founding member of the council of its school of medical research.

An OBE in 1944, a CBE in 1955 and a DBE in 1969 recognised Buxton's role as one of the hospital's major donors and fund-raisers. Following the death of her husband in 1977, she retired from most of her hospital work but remained a life councillor and nominal president of the auxiliaries. She died in 1982.

Published Resources


  • Egan, Bryan, Ways of a Hospital: St Vincent's Melbourne 1890s-1990s, Allen & Unwin and the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Sydney, New South Wales, 1993. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources