Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Goode, Agnes Knight (1872–1947)

by Suzanne Edgar

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Agnes Knight Goode (1872-1947), social and political activist, was born on 31 January 1872 at Strathalbyn, South Australia, daughter of James Fleming, storekeeper and customs official, and his wife Charlotte, née Knight. Agnes taught school before marrying, on 11 July 1896, William Edward Goode, a sheep-farmer from Port Lincoln; they had a daughter and two sons. In 1915 she moved the family to Adelaide, perhaps partly because her husband was an unreliable manager.

In World War I Agnes Goode was founding vice-president of the Women's State Recruiting Committee; she was a forceful speaker and organized a rousing march by women through Adelaide streets. She was secretary from 1916 and president in 1921-22 of the Liberal Women's Educational Association. In 1916 she became a justice of the peace and member of the State Children's Council; from 1919 she presided over the State Children's Court, showing little leniency. She made a 12-year-old boy, convicted of stealing six bicycle chains, a state ward for six years; when his father protested, Goode responded that 'the theft would be the stigma; not the sentence'. From 1917 she had been a censor of cinematograph films.

In 1918-24 she edited the women's page of the Liberal Leader which she headed with the Shakespearian couplet:

Do you know I am a woman?
When I think I must speak.

She covered such topics as: women police; the need for the guardianship of children to be vested equally in their mothers; representation by women on government boards and juries; careers and equal pay for women; prices regulation; probation; and the National Council of Women (to which she belonged). She believed that the different, feminine virtues were needed in the councils of the state.

Goode opposed the controversial A. A. Edwards and stood against him, as a Liberal, twice unsuccessfully in 1924 in the State and Adelaide City Council elections. She was president of the Adelaide women's branch of the Liberal Federation and next year won a seat on the St Peters Corporation which she held until she stood unsuccessfully for mayor in 1935. In 1926 she criticized Edwards' performance as a visiting justice, but a royal commission exonerated him. He then publicly attacked the State Children's Council and Goode's refusal to increase the children's weekly wage. She declared to the 1926 royal commission on law reform that she 'had never yet known a child brought up in an institution who was not exceedingly wasteful'. Despite an active campaign by women, the council was replaced by a new board of which Goode was not a member. She announced that she was leaving party politics but stood, again unsuccessfully, as a representative of the Women's Non-Party Association at a by-election for Adelaide in September. Next year she again failed to win the same seat for the Liberal Federation; she complained that her character had 'been torn to bits' by Edwards.

Her husband died of cancer on 14 November 1929, but Goode remained indefatigable. She had been an official visitor to Parkside Mental Hospital and to the Adelaide Gaol and its Convicted Inebriates Institution and was busy in innumerable groups advancing the interests of poetry, theatre, Aboriginals, housewives, unemployed women, travellers, local industries and kindergartens. A pre-school named for her was opened at Stepney in 1949.

Although this rotund, ample-bosomed public figure was a devoted family woman, her life illustrated her conviction that woman's voice should be heard throughout the community. She died of coronary occlusion on 20 February 1947 at Toorak Gardens and was privately cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Universal Publicity Co., The Official Civic Record of South Australia (Adel, 1936)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1926 (54)
  • Housewife (Adelaide), 5 June 1935
  • Daily Herald (Adelaide), 9 Jan 1919
  • Liberal Leader, Mar, Apr, Aug 1920, 1 Jan 1924
  • Observer (Adelaide), 22 Mar 1924
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 29 Mar 1924, 16, 24, 26, 30 Mar 1927, 21 Feb 1947
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 29 Oct 1927
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 19 June 1930
  • private information.

Citation details

Suzanne Edgar, 'Goode, Agnes Knight (1872–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/goode-agnes-knight-6421/text10981, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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