Series 093/1 - Personal letters received

Identity area

Reference code

AU AU-MTC 093/1


Personal letters received


  • 1961-1996 (Accumulation)
  • 1930-1996 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Loose papers

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Mary Maria Andrews was born at Dry Plain Station (near Cooma, NSW) in 1915 to Albert and Ann Andrews. The family moved to Mittagong in 1925 then Sydney in 1927 for educational purposes following the separation of her parents. Mary was educated at Homebush Intermediate High School and later Hornsby Girls' High. She underwent training as a General Nurse at Gladesville Mental Hospital from 1933-1935, . studied at Sydney Missionary and Bible College from 1935-6 and was a resident at Deaconess house from 1937-8 at the recommendation of the Church Missionary Society of Australia (CMS), to which she had applied as a missionary to China in 1937.
Sailing to China in September 1938, she engaged in language learning at the College of Chinese Studies in Peiping (which was under Japanese occupation at the time) and later in Lin Hai, where she performed missionary work until she was forced to leave in late 1943 in fear of Japanese troops. She worked in Lahore, India, during 1944, and returned to Australia on furlough in 1946, during which time she was 'set apart' as a Deaconess. She returned to China in June 1947, working as a missionary in Shaohsing until she was forced to leave due to pressure from the Communist government in 1951.
Following her missionary career she continued to be heavily involved in CMS Candidates and General Committees and was a committed supporter of the South American Missionary Society (SAMS) and served on their Candidates and Pastoral Committee.
She began work as the Principal of Deaconess House in 1951, and was commissioned as Head Deaconess in the Diocese of Sydney in early 1952. As Principal, she oversaw a dramatic expansion of the institution in both physical size and occupancy. She held the position until her reluctant retirement in 1975. Many of the women who trained at Deaconess House continued to correspond with her, confide in her and shares the joys and trials of ministry with her until her life's end.
She then took on the role of part-time chaplain to three retirement villages - Goodwin Village, Woollahra (where she also resided); Elizabeth Lodge, Kings Cross, and St John's Village, Glebe. Not only did she conduct Bible studies and hold devotional meetings with the residents but she also encouraged them to give generously to missions, other Christian work and organisations for the aged. Additionally, she increased her involvement in a number of ecumenical and women's associations and was a fixture at these for the remainder of her life. Material found in her papers suggests that she supported the Healing Ministry at St Andrews Cathedral, Basilea Schlink of Darmstadt and that she attended the Billy Graham Crusade in 1979.
In 1980 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her Services to Religion.
Mary Andrews throughout her career and ministry was a strong proponent of greater inclusion of women into church life. She was actively involved in the events leading up to a number of milestones, including an increased prominence of the Deaconess order, the inclusion of women in the Anglican synod, and the ordination of women as Anglican Deacons. Late in her life she was fiercely in favour of the ordination of women as priests, and was a member of the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW).
She had a healthy interest in a wide range of Christian beliefs and recorded broadcast interviews of Chrisians from Roman Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal, and various other Christian denominations from Australia and abroad.
Recreationally she enjoyed traditional hymns, English Cathedral music and when time permitted attended performing arts particularly 'classical' music. In fact she entered into correspondence occasionally regarding the programs of concerts and the choice of operas if she thought they were unsuitable. She also had a life-long interest in photography and left behind an exhaustive documentation of the work of Deaconess House, the organisations that she was involved with, her many overseas trips, significant occasions in the ministry of former students and friends and of women's ministry in general.
She died on the 16th of October 1996, a few weeks after the 50th anniversary of her 'setting apart' as a Deaconess.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The series consists primarily of private letters written to Dss Andrews by current and former students, and others in Christian work. The letters from former students detail their work in parishes and other fields of service, and share problems and troubles that they are experiencing, and decisions to move on or to seek other opportunities. They also cover personal interests and updates concerning their families. The letters are evidence of the nurturing relationship the Dss developed with her students, who continued to seek her guidance throughout their careers. The personal nature of Dss Andrews’ relationships with her former students is further evidenced in that many letters are signed with Christian names only (in retrospect, this often causes problems in the identification of the correspondents).
The series also contains invitations to and acknowledgements of the Deaconess' speaking at conferences, parish activities and similar engagements, and discussions of her travels. It appears that the Deaconess’ own return letters have not survived, though in some cases early drafts have been preserved among her writings (see Series 3).
The following material has been destroyed: Duplicates Receipts
*Routine mail-outs and other unsolicited mail

  • Routine travel documentation
    *Greeting cards except for those that contain further information about the sender and their relationship with the Dss
    Envelopes have been discarded except for when they contain contextual information not duplicated in the body of the letter
    Some material found with this series has been made into separate series, including:
  • Newsletters received (except for instances where a personal letter was appended to the newsletter)
  • Writings of Mary Andrews
  • Official Records of Deaconess House
  • Official records of the Head Deaconess
  • Publications received
  • News clippings
  • Official letters (including letters pertaining to various organisations of which she was a member or interested party)
  • Letters addressed to persons other than Mary Andrews
    A note on arrangement:
    The series was amongst several transferred from the Deaconess Institute to the Samuel Marsden Library. It is understood that some of the papers were re-arranged by the Andrews family prior to transfer to the Institute. They were reboxed by Debra Leigo (Archives Consultant) in 2011, and this series was spread over several boxes. The Archivists in 2014 made the decision that the most likely original intended arrangement was chronological (indeed fragments of this arrangement survive), and they were subsequently re-sorted by decade. Many are undated or partially dated. Approximate dates were estimated based on stationery, writing implements, physical context and the identity of the author.

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Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Access restricted for privacy reasons. Closed for access for 75 years. Special access may apply for when the author has
given permission for access; if the author is deceased and reasonable effort has been made to discover whether the copyright has been transferred; for higher degree candidates with appropriate controls for the protection of privacy of correspondents.

Conditions governing reproduction

Unavailable for copying during the lifetime of the correspondent unless permission of the person has been retained.

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Physical storage

  • Shelf: C 5
  • Shelf: C 6
  • Shelf: C 7