Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Raine, Mary Bertha (1877–1960)

by John McIlwraith

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Mary Bertha Raine (1877-1960), businesswoman and philanthropist, was born on 17 February 1877 at Lambeth, London, eldest of thirteen children of Charles Carter, fruiterer, and his wife Mary Bertha, née Appleyard. Mary and her sister Daisy arrived at Moreton Bay, Queensland, in the Jumna on 20 November 1900 with £100 between them. They worked as barmaids in Brisbane and Sydney before deciding in 1904 to return to London. Forced by Daisy's seasickness to disembark at Fremantle, Western Australia, they again found jobs as barmaids. Mary lived frugally and saved enough money to buy a property at Subiaco which she leased out. On 5 May 1905 at the district registrar's office, Perth, she married William Morris Thomas (d.1918), a 44-year-old civil servant; they later separated.

An astute businesswoman, Mrs Thomas acquired considerable assets in Perth during the 1920s property boom, including Gordon's Cafe and Hotel, William Street. She renamed it the Hotel Wentworth and used it as her headquarters. The Wentworth achieved notoriety in World War II as the shore accommodation of submarine crews from the United States Navy. When the hotel was declared 'off limits' due to fights between American and Australian servicemen, 'Ma' Thomas (as she was known to patrons) protested to the prime minister John Curtin, himself a Western Australian. The ban was lifted within a week. At St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Perth, on 3 December 1943 Mary married Arnold ('Joe') Yeldham Raine, a 56-year-old farmer and grazier.

Mrs Raine's philanthropy was inspired by her husband, whom she made her business partner. In the mid-1950s he was asked for a substantial donation to launch a medical school at the University of Western Australia. The Raines' contribution was more modest than the organizers of the appeal expected. Joe promised additional funds, but suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died in February 1957. He left his estate, sworn for probate at £153,906, to his wife. Grief-stricken, she gave her legacy to the university to establish what was later called the Arnold Yeldham and Mary Raine Medical Research Foundation. Her only proviso was that research should initially be undertaken into the causes of arteriosclerosis, the disease that had led to her husband's death. Some unorthodox decisions helped to launch the foundation, with the State and Federal governments agreeing to waive death duties on Raine's estate. The partnership between Mrs Raine and the university proved surprisingly successful. The university shared the management of her extensive property interests, in particular a number of hotels.

Mary Raine died on 3 February 1960 in Royal Perth Hospital and was buried with Anglican rites in Karrakatta cemetery. Childless, she left the bulk of her estate to the Raine Foundation. In all, she gave the foundation nearly £1 million. Although she directed that no building or monument should be dedicated to her or her husband, Raine Square, which includes the site of the Hotel Wentworth, was named after them.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Georgeff, The Mary Raine Story (Perth, 1984)
  • University of Western Australia, Uninews, 5 Aug 1991
  • Daily News (Perth), 17 Mar 1986
  • West Australian, 3 June 1998
  • Mosman Park-Cottesloe Post, 20-21, 27-28 June 1998.

Citation details

John McIlwraith, 'Raine, Mary Bertha (1877–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/raine-mary-bertha-11478/text20467, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 18 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Thomas, Mary Bertha
  • Carter, Mary Bertha
Birth

17 February 1877
London, England

Death

3 February 1960
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation