Woman Holmes, Marion Louisa (1856 - 1921)

Kooringa, South Australia, Australia
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Artist and Charity worker
Alternative Names
  • Genders, Marion Louisa (Maiden)

Written by Dorothy Erickson, Independent Scholar

Marion Holmes, who became a leading charity worker and artist in Western Australia, was born in 1856 in Kooringa, South Australia, elder daughter of Joseph Charles Genders, an importer and wine merchant, and his wife Albinia Louisa. The family were devout Anglicans and Marion was an active member of her church. She married banker Henry Diggins Holmes at Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide in 1878 and moved where his work took him to Gawler and Melbourne. They had two daughters, Phoebe and Emmie, neither of whom married and a son who had a disability so that he needed constant attention. Both daughters spent their lives working for various charities.

The family moved to Western Australia in 1890 when Henry Holmes was appointed the General Manager of the West Australian Bank. This was an influential position in the local society. Marion who had an engaging personality soon became known as a tireless worker for charitable causes and those which improved the position of women. Their homes in St George's Terrace above the bank and then 'Banksia', in Salvado Street, Cottesloe (built c.1897) were meeting places for a circle of influential women including (Dame) Edith Cowan, Lady Madeleine Onslow, (Lady) Gwenyfred James, Dr Roberta Jull and Janetta Griffiths-Foulkes. Marion Holmes was an active foundation member of the first women's club in Australia - the Karrakatta Club - established in 1894 for 'mutual improvement and social intercourse'. The Club had four departments, 'Hygiene', chaired by Gwenyfred James, 'Artistic' by Margaret Forrest, 'Literary' by headmistress Miss J. A. Nisbet and 'Legal and Educational' by another prominent headmistress, Miss Amy Best. Madeleine Onslow was the President and Edith Cowan the Records Secretary. In the 1890s these women petitioned the government for female suffrage and it was Gwenyfred James's husband who introduced the bill that gave Western Australian women the vote in 1899.

Not long after her arrival Marion Holmes formed the Western Australian branch of the Countess of Meath Ministering Children's League, an organisation formed in England for children of the educated and wealthier classes to - as it was described - inculcate habits of unselfishness and thoughtfulness for those less fortunate than themselves. The children who joined raised enough funds to build an adult convalescent home that opened in 1897 in Warton Street, Cottesloe near their own new seaside home. Marion Holmes was the secretary of the League till 1914, vice-president between 1897-1913 and president 1913-1921. She also helped found the Women's Service Guild in Western Australia; served on the first executive of the Western Australian National Council of Women; and supported the Children's Protection Society.

Marion Holmes was also an accomplished artist and won a second-class award for a landscape oil painting at the Coolgardie International Exhibition in 1899. She learnt china painting and pyrography from the artist May Creeth in Perth and exhibited with the WA Society of Arts. Several pieces of her pokerwork and china painting are in the collection of the Western Australian Museum while the Meath Anglican Homes has a number of her paintings. She died of 'Bright's Disease' (nephritis) in Perth in 1921.

Published Resources


  • Erickson, Dorothy, Inspired by Light and Land: Designers and Makers in Western Australia, 1829-1969, Western Australian Museum, Welshpool, Western Australia, 2013. Details

Online Resources

See also