Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kiek, Winifred (1884–1975)

by Walter Phillips

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

This is a shared entry with Edward Sidney Kiek

Winifred Kiek (1884-1975), by Metro Studios, c1935

Winifred Kiek (1884-1975), by Metro Studios, c1935

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B56414

Edward Sidney Kiek (1883-1959) and Winifred Kiek (1884?-1975), Congregational ministers, were husband and wife. Edward was born on 5 August 1883 in London, elder son of Sidney Kiek, theological bookseller and publisher, and his wife Susannah, née Berry, who was of the Moravian Brethren. Sidney Kiek, son of a Congregational minister William Kick, changed his name and repudiated his father's strict Calvinism, but remained a liberal Congregationalist. Edward was educated at the Central Foundation School, City Road, London. He left at 16 to become an Admiralty clerk, but joined the Sidcup Congregational Church in 1900 and prepared for the ministry, matriculating at King's College, London. From 1903 he studied at the University of Oxford (B.A., 1906; M.A., 1910) and Mansfield College from which he graduated in 1908. In 1912 he obtained the B.D. from the University of London.

On 21 October 1910 Kiek was ordained at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. Next year, on 28 August in Manchester, he married Winifred Jackson. In 1913 he moved to Square Congregational Church, Halifax, Yorkshire. He preached liberal evangelical Christianity and socialism as 'the gospel in action', and denounced militarism; but his enthusiasm for Fabianism waned. During World War I he lectured widely for the Young Men's Christian Association and under the university extension scheme.

In 1919 Kiek succeeded L. D. Bevan as principal of Parkin College, Adelaide, a small Congregational theological institution. Kiek arrived next year. Critical of traditional theological training, he modelled his courses on his Oxford experience, aiming to produce graduates in arts and theology. Although he raised standards, few obtained the two degrees. Baptist and Presbyterian students attended his lectures in the 1920s and in 1937 a co-operative lecture scheme with Wesley College began; Kiek taught New Testament and Church history. He also gave courses for the Workers' Educational Association.

Kiek revitalized the South Australian theological world in the 1920s. He founded the interdenominational Adelaide Theological Circle and restated Christian doctrine in the light of modern knowledge. His espousal of higher criticism and denial of the verbal inspiration of the Bible soon provoked controversy and earned him the reputation of an arch-modernist; he called himself 'a progressive evangelical'. He was equally critical of liberal rationalism. His summer schools lectures were published in The Modern Religious Situation (Edinburgh, 1926). He also wrote An Apostle in Australia (London, 1927), a generous biography of J. C. Kirby, who had opposed Kiek's liberalism.

Kiek was chairman of the Congregational Union of South Australia in 1929-30 and 1950-51. He founded the Round Table Christian Sociological Society and was its president for thirty-seven years. A temperance reformer and opponent of gambling, he was president of the South Australian Council of Churches in 1927-28 and its successor, the United Churches Social Reform Board, in 1946-47. He was also a Freemason.

Some of Kiek's meditations in the college chapel were published in The Battle of Faith (London, 1938). He contributed to the Australian Christian World and from 1937 wrote the Saturday leader for the Adelaide Advertiser. He wrote books and pamphlets on psychological, theological and social questions and on Congregational polity. For his thesis on the early church father Lactantius, the Melbourne College of Divinity conferred the D.D. in 1950. In 1943-46 he had lectured, under the Army Educational Scheme; he continued to work for peace and world federation and was chairman of the State regional committee of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association in 1946-48.

Kiek was president of the Congregational Union of Australia and New Zealand in 1946-48. In 1949 he attended the International Congregational Council in America. Next year he wrote Our First Hundred Years, a history of Congregationalism in South Australia. An advocate of church union and ecumenism, Kiek was vice-president of the State committee of the World Council of Churches for several years and its president in 1954.

Gradually he became more conservative, and disliked the more pessimistic neo-orthodox theology which flourished in post-war Australia. His theology was unchanged: 'I am a Ritschlian. I've always been a Ritschlian', he confided to a student, and continued to lecture from outdated notes. In 1957 he retired.

Although not original, Kiek was well read and fluent; he was over fond of alliteration and mouthing words, but was a lucid and popular preacher. A genial, rotund man with spectacles, he detested morbidness, especially in religion. Survived by his wife, a daughter and two sons, he died from a heart attack on the Overland Express on 24 April 1959. His ashes were interred in Centennial Park cemetery. A portrait by G. P. Rayner hangs in Parkin-Wesley College, Adelaide.

Winifred Kiek was born in Manchester, second child of Robert Jackson, tea salesman, and his wife Margaret, née Harker, frugal Quakers. Educated at private schools and Urmston Higher Grade School, at 16 she won a scholarship to Manchester Pupil Teacher Training Centre. In 1904 she entered the Victoria University of Manchester (B.A., 1907) where she won the university prize in logic; she became a schoolteacher. After marrying Kiek she embraced Congregationalism and her husband's church work.

In Adelaide she studied theology and in 1923 was the first woman to graduate B.D. from the Melbourne College of Divinity. In 1929 she took an M.A. in philosophy at the University of Adelaide. A devoted mother, she described her child-rearing theories in Child Nature and Child Nurture (London, 1927).

Conscious of a divine vocation, she had begun public speaking in Quaker meetings and then in Congregational churches. From 1926 she preached in the new Colonel Light Gardens Congregational Union Church and became its pastor next year, the first woman in Australia to be so ordained. She relinquished this in 1933. Her only other charge was Knoxville Congregational Church, where she ministered in 1939-46, but she preached frequently in Congregational and other churches. Several of her sermons were published in the Christian World Pulpit; they were thoughtful, clear expositions of liberal theology. Some expressed her views on the status of women, from whom she held that Christ had removed 'the curse' of inferiority.

Though never a militant feminist, Winifred Kiek championed sexual equality and the women's movement from her arrival in South Australia, joining the newly founded National Council of Women. She was convenor of its committee on equal moral standards in 1927-31 and of the committee for peace and arbitration in 1938-50. She held office in the Women's Non-Party Association (later League of Women Voters), and in the Australian Federation of Women Voters. A member of the Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association, she was a delegate to women's conferences in New Zealand (1952), Sri Lanka (1955), Iran (1960) and Japan (1966).

After World War II Kiek became the World Council of Churches' liaison officer in Australia for work among women; in 1950 she joined the council's commission on the work of women in the Churches and attended its Oxford meeting in 1952. In 1953-56 she was convenor of the Australian Council of Churches' commission on the co-operation of men and women in the Church, about which she wrote in We of One House (Sydney, 1954). This work was recognized in 1965 by the foundation of the Winifred Kiek scholarship, to provide Christian training in Australia for Asian women. She was twice vice-chairman of the Congregational Union of South Australia and acting chairman in 1944-45. She supported her husband on social questions, especially peace and world federation; they both learned Esperanto.

Slight, unassuming and softly spoken, with a trace of a Lancashire accent, Winifred Kiek retained a quiet spirituality. Her upbringing made her disdain comfort; she managed the domestic affairs of Parkin College parsimoniously. She was a proficient puppeteer, presenting performances around South Australia. She had domestic help for most of her married life as well as her husband's support. After his death she retired. She still preached occasionally and also attended the Society of Friends, without separating from Congregationalism. She died at Victor Harbor on 23 May 1975; her ashes were interred with her husband's. Her children survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • M. L. Knauerhase (ed), The Larger Hope (Adel, 1959), and Straight on Till Morning (Adel, 1963), and Winifred (Adel, 1978)
  • W. Phillips, Edward Sidney Kiek (Adel, 1981)
  • Register (Adelaide), 20 May 1920
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 14 June 1927, 27 Apr 1959
  • E. S. Kiek and W. Kiek papers (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Walter Phillips, 'Kiek, Winifred (1884–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kiek-winifred-7099/text12069, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 November 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Winifred Kiek (1884-1975), by Metro Studios, c1935

Winifred Kiek (1884-1975), by Metro Studios, c1935

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B56414