Woman Silcock, Emma Caroline

Community Worker and Religious Sister
Alternative Names
  • Sister Esther

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Emma Silcock was born in England in 1858, the eldest child of shopkeeper, Thomas Silcock and his wife, Sarah. She entered the Anglican community of St Mary the Virgin in 1884, but, following an injury, was sent to Australia to recuperate. Arriving in Melbourne she became the leader of the Mission to Street and Lanes, gathering other women to work with her, initially as deaconesses but by the end of the century as professed sisters, with Silcock now known as Sister (later Mother) Esther. By the beginning of the twentieth century the women saw themselves as a religious community, an identity which was recognised in 1912 when Archbishop Henry Lowther Clarke provided them with a charter as the Community of the Holy Name.

As the only member with experience of convent life, it was left to Silcock to shape the new community. Under her leadership it grew both in its range of services and its geographic reach, conducting schools, children's homes and hospitals in Melbourne and managing additional homes in the Diocese of Newcastle. She offered the women her joined her a life 'of sacrifice and work, always ready to serve the poor and those in need' and urged them to live in the present believing that the future 'was in the hands of God who loves us' (Stewart). Sister Esther was admired for her business acumen. She knew who to turn to for help and was 'sturdily direct' in asking for it (Esther, Mother Foundress, p. 85). 'She possessed all the best of womanly nature with a few of the powers of man', one of her admirers observed (Esther, Mother Foundress, p. 93,) and 'never acknowledged the possibility of failure' (Argus, 12 September 1931).

A leader in the Anglo-Catholic movement in Melbourne, and a mentor to many of the priests attracted to this branch of Anglicanism, Sister Esther also conducted an important outreach amongst Greek and Syrian families before the establishment of Orthodox churches in the city. Silcock died in Melbourne in 1931.

Published Resources


  • Community of the Holy Name, Esther, Mother Foundress of the Community of the Holy Name, Melbourne, Victoria, 1949. Details
  • Strahan, Lynne, Out of the Silence: a study of a religious community of women, the Community of the Holy Name, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1988. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources