Caroline Chisholm, Enmore, Newtown, Stanmore, Tempe, Women

Women of Note

What do Mary Reiby, Caroline Chisholm and Mary Gilmore have in common?

If you said “they’ve all been on our currency” then you would be correct. However they are also connected to the Marrickville local area.

Caroline Chisholm was born in England.She arrived in Australia in 1838 and set up a home for other women who had come to live here. She worked to improve life on the ships bringing people to Australia to start a new life and started a loans plan to bring poor children and families to Australia.

 She arranged free trips so that the families of convicts who were transported to Australia could come to join them. She also believed poor people should be able to buy farms cheaply.

In 1862 Caroline established a private girls school at Rathbone House which was located near the corner of Fotheringham & Stanmore Road (now Enmore).  By 1864 she had moved her growing school to “Greenbank” (Tempe House) at Tempe.

 Mary Gilmore (nee Cameron) was born near Goulburn, New South Wales. She became a teacher, a poet & writer, a campaigner for social reform and was editor of the women’s pages of the Australian Worker newspaper for 23 years.

From May 1891 to 1895 she taught at Stanmore Superior Public School. During this period she became close friends with (and it appears she dated) writer and poet Henry Lawson. 

In 1895, she sailed to Paraguay (Arriving in 1896) to join a group of Australians who planned to set up a new colony where everyone would be equal and would work together. Here she married fellow colonist William Gilmore in 1897. The colony was not successful and after some years they returned to Australia.

Mary Gilmore aged 83 in 1948.
Photo: Wikipedia

She spent the rest of her life writing, doing her editing work and fighting for people who needed help. These included Aboriginal people, children who were forced to work in factories and shearers who were being underpaid. She also fought hard for women’s rights.

Mary Reiby was born in England in 1777, and transported to the Colony of New South Wales for horse stealing in 1790. When arrested she was dressed as a boy and using an alias, however her identity was revealed during the trial. She was 13 years old when sentenced. Arriving in Sydney in 1792 she was assigned as a nursemaid in the household of Major Francis Grose.

In 1794 she married Thomas Reiby, formerly of the East India Company, who established a trading enterprise called Entally House. By 1803 Thomas owned three boats and traded coals and wheat up the Hawkesbury and Hunter rivers. In 1807 Thomas bought a schooner for trading with the Pacfic Islands, however he fell ill after a voyage to India in 1809.

After his death in 1811 Mary was left with seven children and control of a large business which included rural properties, Bass Strait sealing operations and overseas trading. Through enterprise and hard work she became one of the most successful businesswomen in the Colony. As she rose in affluence, she also rose in respectability and socialised in Governor Macquarie’s set. Mary opened a new warehouse in 1812 and extended her fleet with the purchase of two more ships in 1817. In 1820 Mary returned to England with her daughters.

Reiby House Station St. Newtown, Sydney. N.S.W. [picture]. (1914).
Photo: State Library of Victoria

Returning to Sydney she began buying property and erecting buldings in the centre of town. Mary was soon able to retire from management and live on her investments. In 1825, noted for her interest in church, education and charity, Mary was appointed one of the governors of the Free Grammar School.

She settled in Newtown in her later years. Mary built a villa on land bounded approximately by Enmore Road, Station Street, Holt Street and Reiby Street. It was subdivided after her death in 1855, and the house survived until 1966 when it was demolished for high-rise development. Mary also built Stanmore House in the 1840s for one of her daughters. Stanmore House still stands, and can be accessed from Pemell Lane (behind the Enmore Theatre). A drawing of it appears on MHS’s information brochure (click here).

You can read more about Mary in our Heritage 9 journal article written by Nance Irvine.


Australian Dictionary of Biography

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