Woman Solling, Wendy Hope

Religious Sister and Sculptor
Alternative Names
  • Sister Angela of Stroud

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Wendy Solling was born in Maitland in rural New South Wales in 1926. After studying at East Sydney Technical College she went to the Slade Art School in London where exhibitions of her sculpture began to attract attention. Following her return to Australia in 1952 she completed several successful commissions and exhibitions (Sunday Herald, 7 September 1952). However, inspired by a chance contact with a Franciscan priest she returned to England to enter the Anglican community of St Clare in 1955, taking the name of Sister Angela. In 1975 she led three other sisters in the establishment of a community at Stroud in the Diocese of Newcastle, New South Wales. The Society of St Francis established a monastery nearby and the two groups co-operated in building up the community.

Sr Angela was an unconventional religious leader. The rules and laws of religious, she came to argue, 'are made by men ... because they are afraid we don't know how to love ... if we knew how to love fully enough, none of these rules would be required' (Sr Angela's Ashes). She made a space in the mud brick buildings she had helped construct at Stroud to which people could retreat. Soon after her return to Australia she met Patricia Brennan who would later describe the community at Stroud as 'a church in exile for women and men seeking a wider vision of Christian spirituality' (Brennan 1999, p.18). Introduced by Brennan to the emerging campaign for women's ordination she responded: 'I don't understand the ins and outs at all, but I'm with you all the way because it's what I feel in my heart and in prayer' (Sr Angela's Ashes).

When ordination became available to women, Sr Angela was one of the early candidates, being ordained deacon in 1989 and priest in 1992. The community became autonomous from its British parent in 1993 and was subsequently accepted into the Order of St Francis as a community of the second order in formation. However, by then Sr Angela was the sole remaining sister, and although further women spent time at the convent none proceeded to make a religious profession. Undeterred, Angela built a second stage to her monastery, which she opened to lay women wanting to learn more about spirituality, Aboriginal culture and living with the land.

The community ended in 2000 when Sr Angela left to take a position in the United States where she died in 2002. She was described after her death as a 'catalyst' whose gift it had been to bring people and communities together (Sr Angela's Ashes). To Brennan she was 'a creature of holy disorder, colliding with the discipline of an artist and disturbing those who value the church as an exclusive institution' (Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 2002).

Published Resources



  • Campbell, T.W., Religious Communities of the Anglican Communion Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, The Author, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 2007. http://anglicanhistory.org/religious/campbell2007.pdf. Details
  • Reid, Faith, Sculptor of spirit : the story of Angela of Stroud, Labyrinth Creative, Avoca Beach, New South Wales, 2011. Details

Journal Articles

  • Brennan, Patricia, 'The Monastery of St Clare at Stroud', St Mark's Review, no. 177, Autumn 1999, p. 18. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also