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Downing, Cecilia (1858 - 1952)

MBE

Born
13 Janurary 1858
Islington, London, England
Died
30 August 1952
Ivanhoe, Victoria, Australia
Occupation
Community worker and Women's rights activist
Alternative Names
  • Hopkins, Cecilia (maiden name, 13 January 1858 - 12 February 1885)

Summary

Cecilia Downing was a leading figure in the Victorian women's movement in the early twentieth century, spreading her activities and influence over an enormous range of organisations. The daughter of Isaac and Mary (née Morgan) Hopkins, Downing was born in London and came to Australia in 1858. She obtained her Teaching Certificate from the Training Institution in Carlton and taught at Portarlington before marrying John Downing in 1885. The couple returned to Melbourne in 1901. Although she had seven children, Cecilia became heavily involved in women's groups and welfare work. She was one of Victoria's first child probation officers (1907) and was an officer bearer with both the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Australian Women's National League. From the 1920s, she devoted her energies to the Housewives Association (having become one of its earliest members in 1917) and served as its federal president from 1940-45 and Victorian president from 1938 until her death in 1952. On 8 June 1950 Cecilia Downing was appointed a Member of the British Empire for social welfare services in Victoria.

Details

A member of the Collins Street Baptist Church for 46 years, she helped establish their Women's Guild in 1910 and the Victorian Baptist Women's Association in 1926. In 1935 she was elected foundation president of the Women's Board of the Baptist Union of Australia. She was also honorary secretary of the National Council of Women of Victoria (1928-1935) and foundation president of the National Travellers' Aid Society (1944), having been an executive member of the Victorian Society since 1920. During WWII she was also involved with the Australian Comforts Fund, the Victorian Council of Women's Emergency Service and the War Loan and War Savings Certificates Committee.

Events

12 February 1885
Married John Downing, they had seven children
1906
Joined the Collins Street Baptist Church
1907
One of the government's first child-probation officers
1909
Recording secretary of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Victoria
1911
Founding superintendent of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union's immigration department
1912 - 1915
President of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union
1917
Vice-president of the Housewives' Co-operative Association (later Housewives' Association of Victoria)
1920 - 1932
Executive Member, Travellers' Aid Society of Victoria
1928
Australian Delegate to the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Lausanne
1928
Australian Delegate to the Baptist World Alliance Conference in Toronto
1928 - 1936
Honorary Secretary, National Council of Women of Victoria
1932 - 1940
Junior Vice President, Travellers' Aid Society of Victoria
1932 - 1941
Secretary, Baptist Women's Association, Victoria
1934 - 1943
President, Collins Street Baptist Women's Guild
1935 - 1938
President of the Australian Baptist Women's Board
1938 - 1952
President, Housewives Association of Victoria
June 1940 - 1945
President, Federated Association of Australian Housewives
1941 - 1942
President, Travellers' Aid Society of Victoria
1944
President, National Travellers' Aid Society
1945
President, Travellers' Aid Society of Victoria
1947
President, National Travellers' Aid Society
1949 - 1951
President of the Federated Association of Australian Housewives

Sources used to compile this entry: Alexander, Joseph A (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 1950, 14th edn, The Herald, Melbourne, 1950, 816 pp; Smart, Judith, 'Downing, Cecilia (1858 - 1952)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A140031b.htm.

Related entries

Secretary

Archival resources

Australian Historic Records Register

  • Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Victoria Inc. : community organisation records, 1887 - 1988, 2944; The Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Victoria (1885 - ); Australian Historic Records Register. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • National Council of Women of Victoria Minutes, 1904 - 1960, Mfm G 7541-7544; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection

  • Housewives Association of Victoria Records, 1915 - 1985, MS 13340; Housewives Association of Victoria (1915 - ); State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details
  • Melbourne Ladies Benevolent Society, minute books [manuscript], 1850 - 1893, MS 12414; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details
  • National Council of Women of Victoria, 1902 - ; National Council of Women of Victoria (1902 - ); State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Victoria, 1887 - 1999, 101/85; The Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Victoria (1885 - ); The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Jane Carey and Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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