Series 093/7 - Records of Australian Church Women

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AU AU-MTC 093/7


Records of Australian Church Women


  • 1961-1996 (Creation)

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Loose papers

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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.

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United Church Women of Australia (UCWA) was formed at a meeting of the Australian Council of Churches (ACC) on 4 October 1962. UCWA comprised of representatives from the Federal Denominational Women’s Organisations, State Women’s Inter-Church Councils, Australian Council of Churches Committee on Women’s Work and State Committees for Women’s World Day of Prayer. Representatives were appointed approximately equally from office-bearers of the existing organisations and other people appointed for their abilities as Christian leaders. UCWA was affiliated with the Australian Council of Churches to assist in the establishment of links with similar organisations internationally. An Interim Committee was formed to recommend a structure for the ongoing organisation. The Committee recommended that a National Committee be formed together with state and local Committees. The National Committee included six women resident in Sydney who would form the Executive. At the Annual Meeting of the Australian Council of Churches in February 1963 the establishment of Australian Church Women (ACW) was authorised.
At the Annual General Meeting of the ACC in 1964 the recommendation of a consultation held in Sydney in March of that year received 'general approval'. The recommendations covered the aims of ACW, its federal structure and its structure within the ACC.
The aims were

  • To unite Australian Church Women in their allegiance to their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;
  • to provide opportunities or Christian worship, study, fellowship and service across denomination divisions;
  • to promote co-operation of men and women in the church, family and society;
  • to help Christian women to take a more effective place in the total life and mission of the church; and
  • to unite them through the Fellowship of the Least Coin with Christian women of all countries.
    There was a National Committee that met at least annually, an Executive that met monthly and a Working Committee. The Working Committee consisted of members resident within one state and included all of the office-bearers viz - President, two Vice Presidents, Secretary and Treasurer. Of the undesignated members of the Working Committee one was the of the Winifred Kiek Scholarship Committee. The working committee dealt in particular with ACW activities including the world community day and relationships with the Fellowship of the Least Coin.
    The Winifred Kiek scholarship was awarded annually from 1965. Rev. Winifred Kiek was ordained as a Congregational Church Minister in 1927 and was commemorated for her work as an ordained female minister and within the Australian Council of Churches where she encouraged ministry to women. A subcommittee of ACW was formed to deal with the applications, to recommend candidates for the award and to make arrangements for the applicants when in Australia. The scholarship was available to young Christian Women from developing countries and enabled the to study and gain professional experience in Australia in addition to participating in women's' Christian groups . The papers relating to the Winifred Kiek Scholarship contained in this collection include Sub-Committee correspondence (Mary Andrews was the Convenor of the Committee for many years) occasional reports, printed material including leaflets concerning scholarship holders and their schedules while in Australia, and publicity from the project.
    Two major annual activities were World Community Day and Fellowship Day. It seems that orders of service were produced centrally for use and adaptation in the various state units and local branches. The records of these in this collection include, fliers and other publicity and orders of service. The revised Constitution of 1985 allowed for a biennial National Conference which was held in conjunction with the National Committee meetings. The earliest records of National Conferences date from 1985. There was a new Constitution in 1988 Newsletters were issued to members commencing in August 1964. Initially these appeared to be irregular but by1976 they were issued monthly. By April 1970 the Newsletters were known as 'Women at Work' . From October 1985 the Newsletter was known as ACW News. The Newsletters emanated from the Branch where the Executive at the time was situated although mist issues contained. Many issue have been lost. The State Units pre-dated the federal organisation. The NSW Branch held its inaugural meeting on 18 November 1938 and the Victorian Branch was established by the adoption of its constitution on 13 June 1941.
    The records that comprise this series are not the official archives of Australian Church Women, but those that were held by Mary Andrews. There are some gaps that might indicate the periods of greatest involvement in ACW or normal accidents of record keeping. The series comprises both the records that have survived from the Federal organisations and the State Units and occasionally local branches. Most of the surviving branch records emanated from NSW.

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The archivist has organised these records in the following manner - Federal Organisation - Corporate records (Minutes, constitutional, correspondence preceding operational and published material. State Unit material follows with similar sub-arrangement.

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Restricted due to confidentiality. Published material is available for access. Any other material open for public access on completion of Application for access following an attempt to gain permission from Australian Council of Churches.

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  • Shelf: C 8
  • Shelf: C 9