Woman Mitchell, Eliza, Lady

Community Worker

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Eliza Mitchell was born in Melbourne in 1864, the daughter of Scotch College headmaster, Charles Morrison and his wife, Christina. Educated at Presbyterian Ladies College, she travelled extensively in Europe before marrying lawyer, Edward Mitchell, in 1886. The couple had four daughters.

Mitchell's entry into charity work came at the start of World War I when she became a foundation member of Red Cross, and chairman of its Victorian Home Hospitals Committee (Argus, 14 September 1915), hosting classes in first-aid and nursing in her home (Mitchell, p. 153). Travelling with her husband to England, in 1915 she continued her Red Cross work rising, in 1918, to the rank of assistant commissioner, responsible for organising visits and comforts for Australian soldiers in the more than 400 hospitals in England. On her return to Australia in the following year she filled her life 'with public and philanthropic work' (Mitchell, p. 180) taking leadership roles with a range of charitable and community organisations, including the New Settlers' League, the Bush Nursing Association and the Country Women's Association. It was, she believed, 'work well worth doing to strengthen and maintain the ties that bind us to the Empire' (Mitchell, p. 183). 'Service', she insisted, 'is the price we pay for being on earth' (Mitchell, p. 190).

Described as 'an able speaker ... [possessing] a most charming manner ... Great breadth of vision and rare ability for organisation' (Queenslander, 2 August 1928), she made connections between the various associations for which she worked, drawing on the members of one to offer support to the others. However, she was quick to acknowledge the contribution of her 'indefatigable secretary' who commonly took charge of the more practical arrangements needed to see her ideas through to fruition (Mitchell, p. 186).

Mitchell was appointed CBE in 1918 in recognition of her war work. A ward of the Queen Victoria hospital, for which she was a major fundraiser, was named in her honour. On her death in 1948, she was remembered as a 'fine worker for charity' (Argus, 2 October 1948).

Published Resources


  • Mitchell, Eliza, Three-Quarters of a Century, Methuen, London, England, 1940. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also