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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Exhibitions

  • Faith, Hope and Charity Australian Women and Imperial Honours: 1901-1989
  • In Her Gift: Women Philanthropists in Australian History

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Stevenson, Hilda Mabel (1893 - 1987)

Dame, DBE, CBE, OBE

Born
1893
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Died
1987
Occupation
Philanthropist and Community worker
Alternative Names
  • McKay, Hilda Mabel (maiden name)

Summary

In recognition of her philanthropy and social welfare work, Stevenson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 31 December 1960, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire 8 June 1963 and a Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 1 January 1968.

Details

Daughter of Hugh Victor McKay, the inventor of the combined harvester, Hilda Mabel was born at Ballarat and educated at Clarendon College and Presbyterian Ladies' College. Her first marriage was in 1916 to Cleveland James Kidd (deceased 1923), and in 1936 she married Colonel George Ingram Stevenson. They were to have one daughter.

Hilda Stevenson was for many years associated with the committee of management at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. Dates conflict but it is suggested that she was a member of the committee from 1938, and served as vice-president from 1951-73. In 1958, she donated £100,000 for the establishment of a Chair of Paediatrics at the hospital, to be administered by the University of Melbourne.

Dame Hilda was a generous benefactor. She was founder and trustee of the Sunshine Foundation, which she chaired after the death of her brother Cecil. She gave significant sums to her alma mater, PLC, and to the Victorian Arts Centre as well as to the Children's Hospital and the University of Melbourne. She was a member of the Alexandra and Peninsula Golf Clubs as well as the Lawn Tennis Association of Victoria. In recognition of her philanthropy and social welfare work, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 31 December 1960, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire 8 June 1963 and a Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 1 January 1968. In 1973 she was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by the University of Melbourne in recognition, according to the Sun, of her involvement with the institution for several decades and her gifts to university projects including the Florey Laboratories and International House.

An article in Woman's Day, 3 September 1979, quipped 'Dame Hilda's a Starter in a Race for Equality (but she doesn't want to be first across the line)'. Dame Hilda was, the magazine reported, the only woman member of the Victoria Racing Club to have full voting rights, but did not act on her entitlement to use the men-only bars and seating areas, saying 'I think the men deserve their domain': 'Equality is not one of her strong beliefs', said the magazine, '"Men are just born different", she says'.

Sources used to compile this entry: Draper, W J (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 1983, 24 edn, The Herald and Weekly Times, Melbourne, 1983, 960 pp; Lemon, Barbara, 'In Her Gift: Activism and Altruism in Australian Women's Philanthropy, 1880-2005', PhD thesis, School of Historical Studies, University of Melbourne, 2008; Yule, Peter, The Royal Children's Hospital: A History of Faith, Science and Love, Halstead Press, Rushcutters Bay, NSW, 656 pp.

Related entries

Archival resources

The University of Melbourne, Baillieu Library Special Collections

  • Papers, 24 March 1980 - 19 November 1980, 81/110; The University of Melbourne, Baillieu Library Special Collections. Details

Anne Heywood and Barbara Lemon

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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

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