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Schardt, Susan Katherina (1872–1934)

by P. T. Downie

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Susan Katherina Schardt (1872-1934), hospital founder, was born on 15 January 1872 at Queanbeyan, New South Wales, second surviving child of Frederick Schardt, German-born farmer, and his wife Hannah, née Harris. Her father, son of Count Adam von Schardt, had been lured to Australia by the discovery of gold and had settled near Captains Flat in 1860. Born blind, as was her younger brother Charles, Susan attended the Darlington, Sydney, school run by the New South Wales Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind in 1880-87.

Deeply religious, Susan Schardt devoted herself to charitable work. Visiting Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, she worried about the plight of a destitute paralysed man who was to be discharged. With the help of friends she found a room at Surry Hills with a woman prepared to care for him for fifteen shillings a week. A further six shillings a week provided wages for an assistant and adequate furniture. She collected the money in small amounts from a growing circle of friends and, continuing her hospital visits, made similar arrangements for other incurably ill patients.

Miss Schardt and her friends formed a committee, rented a house in Cleveland Street, Redfern, and made it suitable for sixteen patients and their nurses. The Commonwealth Home for Destitute Invalids (New South Wales Home for Incurables) was opened on 29 October 1900 and by 1902 (Sir) George Reid was president of the committee and Professor (Sir) Thomas Anderson Stuart vice-president. The home had provided refuge for fifty inmates by 1906, when the building was condemned. At a public meeting, chaired by Governor Sir Harry Rawson, on 1 June Sir Henry Moses offered Weemala, his mansion on forty-two acres (17 ha) at Ryde, at half the auctioneer's valuation of £7000. Other philanthropists, including (Sir) Hugh Dixson and Walter Hall and their wives, made generous donations. Later, Miss Schardt raised more money by speaking to groups of interested women and the new home for the incurables was officially opened on 10 April 1907. It provided accommodation for sixty-five patients.

As the home's country lecturer, Miss Schardt travelled by train throughout the State with her friend and companion Beatrice Ricketts. Authorized by the minister of public instruction, she regularly addressed schools and public meetings. By 1921, when an appeal was launched for the building of a home for cancer patients, she had raised £15,500. When she was forced by ill health to give up her work about ten years later, the sum had grown to over £35,000.

Susan Schardt died at Ryde in the institution she had founded on 9 October 1934. Following a funeral service conducted by Bishop Kirkby at St Philip's, Church Hill, she was buried with Methodist rites in the family grave in the Baptist section of Waverley cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • ‘The home for incurables at Ryde’, Society (Sydney), Dec 1921
  • R. L. Cross, Bygone Queanbeyan (Queanbeyan, NSW, 1985)
  • Talkabout, 1, nos 3 and 4, Sept, Dec 1964
  • New South Wales Homes for Incurables, Annual Report, 1921, 1935
  • Institute for Deaf, Dumb and Blind Children, Annual Report, 1880, p 61, 1883, p 64, 1888, p 74
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 1906, 11 Apr 1907, 10, 11 Oct 1934.

Citation details

P. T. Downie, 'Schardt, Susan Katherina (1872–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/schardt-susan-katherina-8352/text14657, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 16 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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