Australian Women's Register

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Birks, Rosetta Jane (Rose) (1856 - 1911)

Born
March 1856
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Died
1911
College Park, South Australia, Australia
Occupation
Social reformer and Suffragist
Alternative Names
  • Thomas, Rosetta Jane (maiden name)

Summary

Rosetta Jane Birks (née Thomas) was born in March 1856. She joined the Ladies' Committee of the Social Purity Society which led to her interest in women's suffrage. She joined the South Australian Women's Suffrage League, becoming its treasurer. After suffrage was granted she joined the short-lived Woman's League, working with Catherine Helen Spence, Lucy Morice and others. She was appointed to the board of the Adelaide Hospital in 1896. In 1902 she helped form the National Council of Women as well as becoming president of the Young Women's Christian Association. She died in 1911.

Details

Rosetta Jane Birks (née Thomas) was born in March 1856, one of nine children to William Kyffin and Mary Thomas. When she was twenty three she married her sister's widower, Charles Birks, and became an affectionate step-mother to her six nieces and nephews. A devout Baptist, she was committed to social reform and joined the Ladies' Committee of the Social Purity Society. Through her work with the Society she became committed to women's suffrage and joined the South Australian Women's Suffrage League, becoming a councillor at her first meeting, and treasurer at her second. When suffrage had been attained she joined the short-lived Woman's League and worked on its committee with Catherine Helen Spence and Lucy Morice. On election day in April 1896 she woke early so that she could be the first woman in Glenelg (South Australia) to vote. She was appointed to the Board of the Adelaide Hospital in 1896 although soon resigned, along with most other members, over a matter of principle. In 1902 she helped organise the formation of the National Council of Women and became its vice-president. In the same year she became president of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and re-formed its Traveller's Aid Society in 1911. Rosetta Birks was president of the Flinders Street Baptist Mothers' Union. She died in 1911 while presiding over a women's missionary meeting at the College Park Congregational Church, Adelaide.

Sources used to compile this entry: Jones, Helen, 1926-, In her own name : women in South Australian history, Wakefield Press, Netley, SA, 1986, 356 pp. pp. 101-103.; 'Rosetta Birks' Obituary', Southern Baptist, vol. xvii, no. 41, 19 October 1911, p. 698.

Related entries

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Archival resources

State Library of South Australia, Mortlock Library of South Australiana

  • Young Women's Christian Association of Adelaide, 1919 - 1981, SRG 403; Young Women's Christian Association of Adelaide; State Library of South Australia, Mortlock Library of South Australiana. Details

Robin Secomb

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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

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