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Leworthy, Betty Caroline (1877–1962)

by Ruth Schumann

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Betty Caroline Leworthy (1877-1962), church and community worker, was born on 13 January 1877 at Riverton, Southland, New Zealand, elder daughter of Malcolm Henry Leworthy (d.1891), a station-manager from England, and his Irish-born wife Eleanor, née Sutherland. In the late 1870s the family settled at Victor Harbor, South Australia. Educated locally, Betty trained as a shorthand-typist at the Remington Agency Ltd's business college, Adelaide, then opened a small copying agency in Waymouth Street. In 1901 she was appointed senior instructor in typing at the School of Mines and Industries; next year she took over the shorthand classes and taught both subjects until 1904. She was the founding principal (from 1905) of the Remington Agency Ltd schools (Remington Training College) which merged in 1912 with Muirden College Ltd. In 1920 she opened Miss Leworthy's Business College for Girls in Hindmarsh Square; two years later she set up a local branch of Zercho's Business College; and in 1923 she managed the Typewriter Co. Ltd.

Meanwhile, Leworthy had become involved in community work. Converted from her Anglican faith, she was founding honorary secretary (1914) of the Catholic Women's League, whose patron was Lady Galway. The league undertook a range of war-work and raised funds to build a recreational hall at Keswick for returned servicemen. Despite protests from some of the C.W.L., Leworthy was a staunch advocate of conscription. Over the next thirty years she broadened the league's activities in the field of social work, and extended the religious and intellectual interests of its members by involving them in organizations outside their own denomination.

Having visited England where she inspected hostels, in 1916 Leworthy accepted the post of resident secretary of St Mary's Hostel and Club Café for young women, in Pirie Street (relocated to East Terrace in 1918), Adelaide. It was founded under the auspices of the C.W.L. When the hostel experienced financial difficulties, she served as matron (1932-40), and remained on the board until 1959. The Bruce-Page government had invited her in 1924 to report on aspects of emigration from England and Italy. During the Depression the league endeavoured to find work for unemployed Catholic women and provided soup kitchens at poorer Catholic schools. In 1940 Leworthy again took charge of the league's war effort and headed a committee to assist the Australian Comforts Fund. She was appointed M.B.E. in 1949. Late in life she managed a ladies' employment agency.

Leworthy's manner was dynamic and determined, yet she was sensitive and kindly by disposition. She was small and slender in build, cultivated in her tastes and conservative in dress. Generous and practical in her concern for the disadvantaged, she fought for social justice and saw women as agents of change. Her ecumenical outlook challenged the segregationist attitudes of the Catholic hierarchy. She died on 17 February 1962 at Parkside Mental Hospital and was buried in West Terrace cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Catholic Women's League Magazine, Oct 1935, Nov 1941
  • R. Schumann, '''Charity, Work, Loyalty"
  • The Catholic Women's League in South Australia', Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, 11, 1983
  • Observer (Adelaide), 28 Feb 1891
  • Southern Cross (Adelaide), 31 Mar, 11 Aug, 27 Oct 1916, 20 Dec 1918, 15 Feb 1924
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 Feb 1962
  • H. P. Jones, The History of Commercial Education in South Australia with Special Reference to Women (M.A. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1967)
  • Catholic Women's League (Adelaide) minutes, 25 Oct 1914, 13 Feb 1931, 23 July 1934, 13 May 1935, 9 Aug 1940
  • St Mary's Hostel Board, minutes, 1952-59 (Catholic Archives, Adelaide)
  • personal information.

Citation details

Ruth Schumann, 'Leworthy, Betty Caroline (1877–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/leworthy-betty-caroline-10826/text19207, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 17 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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