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Green, Anne Syrett (1858–1936)

by Julie-Ann Ellis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Anne Syrett Green (1858-1936), welfare worker and evangelist, was born on 2 December 1858 at Brunswick, Melbourne, sixth child of London-born parents Henry Green, butcher, and his wife Emma Rebecca, née Syrett. Annie was educated at the Presbyterian Common School and attended Brunswick Baptist Church.

In 1877 the family moved to South Australia, where she worshipped at Stepney Christian Church. She became a volunteer with the Adelaide City Mission, an interdenominational, Protestant institution, offered English lessons to the Chinese community and assisted working-class mothers at the mission hall in Light Square. In 1881 Green was appointed to a staff position at the A.C.M. She was innovative and charismatic, recruiting other women as volunteer helpers and organizing new activities such as nightly 'rescue work' among prostitutes, a 'flower mission' at the Adelaide Hospital and a Dorcas Society to provide clothing for the poor. She also proved to be hard to control and intolerant of close supervision.

Green was briefly given general oversight of the whole mission, and ran it with the help of 'twelve lady volunteers' in 1887. When another missionary was employed in 1888, Green resigned to take up work as the secretary of the Young Women's Christian Association. Without her, the mission languished and volunteers fell away. She rejoined the mission late in 1890, but resigned again next year to tour rural South Australia for the Bible Christian Church, with Ruth Nesbit (later McDowell), half-sister of Edward Paris Nesbit and formerly a city missionary with the Baptist Church. The Wesleyan Methodist Conference engaged Annie and Ruth as travelling evangelists in 1894.

In 1897 Green set up a branch of the A.C.M. in Sussex Street, a working-class area of North Adelaide. She established Bible classes, savings clubs, mothers' meetings, clubs for boys and girls, basketball and cricket clubs, and held regular evangelistic services. In addition she gave direct help following house-to-house visits, including counselling, emergency assistance and finding employment. From 1905, when she presented a well-received paper to the first interstate conference of city missions, she began to establish a wider reputation for welfare work. She was appointed a justice of the peace in February 1916.

Tensions with the A.C.M. committee remained. Green was impatient of formal accounting procedures and of any supervision (especially from the male superintendent), which she saw as 'dictatorship'. The committee was reluctant to pay her more than a minimal salary. In 1911 and 1917 she resigned; each time she was persuaded to return, on the promise of 'a free hand' in running Sussex Street. In 1921, unable to find a male missionary for the work in Light Square, the A.C.M. decided to hand responsibility for much of the programme there to the Salvation Army. Anonymous correspondents in the daily press, probably close associates of Green's, condemned this move, and noted the 'magnificent work' carried on by her, in contrast to the 'decadent' parent mission.

Miss Green was appointed superintendent of the entire mission in 1923. The arrangement with the Salvation Army was terminated, and she moved back to Light Square, instituting various clubs and offering services to the factory workers nearby. The Sussex Street premises became an A.C.M. hostel for Aboriginal women and children visiting Adelaide.

As the Depression began to bite, Green was approached by the premier (Sir) Richard Layton Butler to assist with accommodation for homeless men in winter, and for general discussion of welfare needs. She oversaw extensive relief work, some in co-operation with the government. Also approached by the Welfare Department to run some of their services, she refused after 1930 because she felt that government control would impair the mission's independence.

Tall and erect, Green dressed with elegant severity and was an impressive figure. She died on 14 April 1936 at her home at Kingswood and was buried in Mitcham cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Green, Evergreen Annie (Adel, 1988)
  • Adelaide City Mission records (State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

Julie-Ann Ellis, 'Green, Anne Syrett (1858–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/green-anne-syrett-12950/text23405, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 17 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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