Woman Griffith, Mary Harriet


Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Mary Griffith was born in England in 1849, the third of five children of Congregationalist minister, Rev Edward Griffith and his wife, Mary. She migrated in 1854 to what would become Queensland where her father founded a Congregational church in Ipswich. Educated initially at home, and later at a small private school, Mary did not marry but cared for her parents until their deaths.

In line with the expectations of nineteenth-century Christian women, Mary engaged with a wide range of philanthropic activities. A lifetime deaconess of the church, her particular interest was in such interdenominational organisations as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Young Women's Christian Association, but she also served on the committees of the Brisbane Benevolent Society, Lady Musgrave Lodge, the Travellers' Aid Society, the Charity Organisation Society and the Hospital for Sick Children. Politically she allied herself with the National Council of Women and the Queensland Women's Electoral League and during World War I she was vice-president of the state division of Red Cross.

Although Griffith was a member of the Brisbane elite as the sister of Sir Samuel Griffith, Queensland Premier and later Chief Justice of Australia, she was celebrated as a woman who had 'given many years of her life to the service of others without fee or reward, and it had been done in such a quiet way that one might thing she was afraid of being found out' (Brisbane Courier, 10 July 1925). In retirement, she moved into the Aged Christian Women's Home which she had helped found and here she died in 1930. Memorial doors and a tablet at the Brisbane YWCA commemorate her life and contribution (Queensland Figaro, 9 May 1931).

Published Resources

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources