Women Who Shaped and Built Ballarat

In 2017 Ballarat’s New Cemetery celebrates its 150th anniversary when it was formally declared open on 10th June 1867. Today the Ballarat Cemeteries Trust not only provides burial and memorial services to families, but also actively promotes the importance of cemeteries as places of great social, cultural and historical significance. In particular, the many individuals and events who have informed and shaped us as a community.

As part of its celebrations, the Trust is bringing to life the stories of the many women who have made Ballarat the vibrant and progressive city it is today and importantly to share and celebrate their lives through our 150 years 150 stories project, which will be officially launched today.

While much has been written about the famous men of Ballarat, the lives and achievements of its women are not always as well known – and although there is a growing body of work now being undertaken by historians in this area, the everyday stories often remain untold. Graves are unmarked, names unknown and burial records only tell us of their role in society, as mothers, daughters, wives, widows or spinsters. They do not tell the story of how they lived or their contribution.

“This year Ballarat has potentially the highest number of significant women in leadership roles across many spheres of industry and government and the Trust felt it was both an important and timely opportunity to recognise the women of Ballarat both past and present,’ said Ballarat Cemeteries Trust Chair, Judy Verlin.

“Our goal is to collect 150 stories and share the lives and contribution of the many female leaders, visionaries and pioneers who rest in Ballarat’s old and new cemeteries – and most importantly discover the many untold stories held by families and friends within the Ballarat community,” added Ballarat Cemetery Trust CEO, Annie De Jong.

“These are the women of Eureka who fought for democracy, who kept the home fires burning during the war, who marched for the right to vote, who managed families and businesses – and through their everyday lives built the foundations on which we continue to grow.”

Well known figures identified by the Trust to date include entrepreneurs Eleanor Lucas, Matilda Thompson and Mary Sutton, artists Helen Noonan, Gertrude Healy, Alma Matthews and Rosalie Bonighton, educators Mother Bonaventure and Mother Hilda, political activists and politicians such as Aileen Palmer, Mary Morrison, Jessie Scott and Karen Overington, and health care reformers Alice Pittard and Helen Gardiner.

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