Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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M U Australia (1892 - )

From
1892
Australia
Occupations
Social support organisation
Alternative Names
  • Caritas
  • The Mothers' Union
  • The Mothers Union in Australia
Website
http://www.mu.org.au

Summary

M U Australia (known for most of its history as the Mothers' Union) is part of the worldwide Mothers' Union which is an organisation within the Anglican Church. First established in England in 1876, its early objectives were:
1. To awaken in all mothers a sense of their great responsibility in the training of their boys and girls-the fathers and mothers of the future.
2. To organise in every place a band of mothers who will unite and prayer and seek by their example to lead their families in purity and holiness in life.
The first Australian Mothers' Union was formed in Cullenswood, Tasmania, in 1892. The movement spread quickly across the country, becoming a major organisation both for Anglican women and within the broader women's movement in the years up to 1960. Apart from Christian outreach, the Union has been involved in wide range of social and political reform activities, mostly relating to the welfare of women and children, as well as charitable work.

Details

The first Mothers' Union was formed in 1876 by Mary Sumner in Old Arlesford, in the south England. By 1885 it was a diocesan organisation in Winchester and quickly spread across England and then internationally as women migrated. In 1896 a Central Council was formed and in 1925 central headquarters were established in London. The Union received a Royal Charter in 1926 - the first granted to a religious and a women's organisation. Until the 1970s, divorced women were excluded from membership.

The first Australian Mothers' Union was formed in Cullenswood, Tasmania, in 1892, closely followed in South Australian 1895 when intorduced by Lady Victoria Buxton and Dorothy Harmer - the wives of the Governor and the Anglican Bishop. Within five years there were 49 branches with 1,350 members across the state. By 1904, Unions had been established in all Australian states. In the early 1900s, the Union frequently co-operated with other Christian women's organisations, and sometimes the National Councils of Women, in campaigns for political and social reforms. Early activities included, for example, campaigns for the provision of sex education for children, censorship of films and the Bush Nursing Service. Its national journal, Mothers in Australia (from 1945 Mianza and from 1960 Mia, Mia) was established in 1917. The Union's literature includes reams of advice about child rearing. While promoting Christian women's influence in the wider society, the Union did not support the idea of working women.

In 1974 Australia became the first overseas province to be granted autonomy. The Union changed its name to MU Australia in ??
In 2004, its objective were:
1. To uphold Christ's teaching on the nature of marriage and to promote its understanding
2. To encourage parents to bring up their children in the faith and life of the Church;
3. To maintain a world wide fellowship of Christians united in prayer, worship, and service;
4. To promote conditions in society favourable to stable family life and the protection of children;
5. To help those whose family life has met with adversity.

In 2004 it claimed some 10,000 members and maintained 7 Departments: Education; Overseas and Northern Outreach; Promotion and Development; Prayer and Spirituality; Publication; Social Responsibility; Mia Mia (the newsletter of MU Australia). It also continues to work with Caritas groups (a previously semi-autonomous organisation within the church, organised at a parish level, and not to be confused with the Catholic aid organisation of the same name) to provide support for 'lonely people.' In 2004 the Worldwide Union had more than three million members in 71 countries—making it the largest voluntary worldwide women's organisation.


Archival note:
While several archival collections relating to Mothers' Union groups in Australia have been identified, many more undoubtedly exist in various local parish and Diocesan records which are currently unlisted. For a list of Anglican archives (incomplete) see:
http://www.anglican.org.au/community.cfm?SID=16&SSID=96&PID=154

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Members of the Robe Mothers' Union', in SA Memory: South Australia Past and Present, For the Future, State Library of South Australia, Government of South Australia, 2006, http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?c=465; Matheson, Avis, A history of the Mothers' Union in Australia, Mothers' Union in Australia, [Toowoomba, Qld.?], 1992, 114 pp; Warne, Ellen, 'Prowlers in the darkened cinema: Australian church women's associations and the arrival of the motion picture in Australia.', Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 2000, pp. 78-97.

Related entries

Member

Archival resources

Anglican Church Diocese of Grafton

  • Cathedral Mothers Union, Grafton Cathedral Parish, Anglican Church of Australia, 1946 - 1986; Anglican Church Diocese of Grafton. Details
  • Mothers' Union, Parish of Casino, Anglican Church of Australia, 1941 - 1973; Anglican Church Diocese of Grafton. Details
  • South Lismore Mothers Union, Parish of Lismore, Anglican Church of Australia, 1937 - 1957; Anglican Church Diocese of Grafton. Details

Anglican Diocese of Melbourne

  • Mothers' Union, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, 1896 - 1975?; Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. Details

Archives Office of Tasmania

  • Mothers' Union St Wilfrid's Church, 1959 - 1993, NS 1666/54-58; Archives Office of Tasmania. Details
  • Mothers' Union, Church of St Barnabus, Scottsdale, 1948 - 1981, NS 1703/53-55; Archives Office of Tasmania. Details
  • Mothers' Union, St John the Baptist Church, Hobart, 1905 - 1973, NS 1241/53-55, 67; Archives Office of Tasmania. Details
  • Mothers' Union, St John's Church, New Town, 1918 - 1966, NS 656/58-60; Archives Office of Tasmania. Details
  • Mothers' Union, St Mary's Church of England, Moonah, 1918 - 1990, NS 1253/67-73; Archives Office of Tasmania. Details
  • Mothers' Union, St Paul's Anglican Church, Dover, 1926 - 1949, NS 1212/6 and NS 1512/14; Archives Office of Tasmania. Details
  • Mothers' Union, St Peter's Anglican Church, Geeveston, 1914 - 1989, NS 1212/4 and 1512/1-13; Archives Office of Tasmania. Details

Archives Rare Books and Special Collections Unit, Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle

  • Mothers' Union, Raymond Terrace Parish, B9677-B9678; Anglican Diocese of Newcastle Archives; Archives Rare Books and Special Collections Unit, Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle. Details
  • Mothers' Union, St James' Parish Wickham, 1904 - 1960, A7747(iv); Anglican Diocese of Newcastle Archives; Archives Rare Books and Special Collections Unit, Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle. Details

Charles Sturt University Regional Archives

  • Coolamon Mothers' Union, St. Andrew's Parish, 1947 - 1985, RW1535; Charles Sturt University Regional Archives. Details

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • Mothers' Union, Saint Augustine's Church (Stanmore, N.S.W), 1936 - 1951, ML MSS 6238/40/1 and ML MSS 6238/42/3; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

Records and Archives Centre, Anglican Diocese of Brisbane

Jane Carey

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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

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