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Anna Frederika (Freda) Bage (1883–1970)

by Jacqueline Bell

This article was published:

Freda Bage, n.d.

Freda Bage, n.d.

Anna Frederika (Freda) Bage (1883-1970), university teacher, was born on 11 April 1883 at St Kilda, Victoria, daughter of Edward Bage, wholesale chemist, and his wife Mary Charlotte, née Lange. When her father, a junior partner in Felton, Grimwade & Co., died in July 1891 his widow took the three children to England where she enrolled them in the Oxford High School for girls. Returning to Melbourne in 1894, Freda went to Faireleight School. Inspired by her father's amateur scientific interests, she entered Janet Clarke Hall, University of Melbourne, in 1901, and after failing first year graduated B.Sc. in 1905 and M.Sc. with second-class honours in 1907. She then worked as a junior demonstrator in biology, sharing the MacBain Research Scholarship in 1907 and winning a Victorian government research scholarship in 1908. Next year she read two papers to the Royal Society of Victoria, then went to England on a King's College, London, research scholarship; her work under A. Dendy in 1910-11 led to a fellowship of the Linnean Society. Returning to the University of Melbourne as senior demonstrator, she was appointed lecturer in charge of biology at the University of Queensland in 1913, and became first principal of The Women's College within that university on 8 February 1914.

Miss Bage travelled widely in Queensland on official visits to encourage women to attend the university and to gain rural support for her college. From 1914 she drove and serviced a car, and competed in hill-climbs and reliability trials despite assertions that she was unladylike. As a biologist interested in fauna and flora she became president of the Field Naturalists' Club in 1915 and was a foundation member of the Barrier Reef committee. She was a member of the university senate in 1923-50.

Freda Bage's extra-mural interests were wide. In World War I she was a member of the Queensland recruiting committee and in both wars was president of university women's war work groups. Later she was honorary treasurer and vice-president of the State branch of the Australian League of Nations Union and in 1926 and 1938 she was sent to Geneva as a substitute delegate to the League of Nations Assembly. She was an original member of the National Art Galleries' Association, the Twelfth Night Theatre and the Brisbane Repertory Society. A hockey enthusiast, she managed the first hockey team in Australia to travel interstate, from Melbourne to Adelaide in 1908, and was president of the Queensland Women's Hockey Association in 1925-31.

Miss Bage was always interested in women's organizations and activities, being honorary secretary of the National Council of Women, Queensland, for some years and president of the Women's Club in 1916, and the Lyceum Club, Brisbane, in 1922-23. In particular the organization of university women concerned her and she took the lead in forming the Queensland Women Graduates' Association (later the Queensland Association of University Women). She was president of the Australian Federation of University Women in 1928-29, and represented it at several overseas conferences of the International Federation of University Women; as a tribute to her work the A.F.U.W. established a Freda Bage scholarship. Appointed O.B.E. in 1941, she retired in 1946 and the university conferred an honorary doctorate of laws on 26 April 1951. She died of cerebral arteriosclerosis in Brisbane on 23 October 1970, and was cremated with Anglican rites. Her estate was sworn for probate at $59,566: beside numerous personal legacies, it provided scholarships in Melbourne as memorials to her brother and funds for Melbourne and Queensland universities and their women's colleges.

A forerunner of women in public life in Queensland, Freda Bage was an unpretentious person despite her strong personality. Her portrait by William Dargie hangs in The Women's College, University of Queensland.

Her brother Edward Frederic Robert, born on 17 April 1888, graduated in civil engineering at the University of Melbourne in 1910, worked in the Queensland Railways, then joined the regular army. He served with distinction on the Mawson Antarctic expedition in 1910-13, joined the Australian Imperial Force in 1914 and as a captain, second-in-command of the 3rd Field Company of Engineers, was killed in action at Gallipoli in May 1915. His mother founded a commemorative engineering scholarship at the University of Melbourne in 1917.

A sister Ethel Mary (1884-1943), M. A., achieved some notice in 1926 by accepting management of a garage in Kew, Victoria, to honour the memory of a friend, Alice Anderson, who had founded it.

Her uncle Charles, born on 7 October 1859 at Colac, Victoria, graduated in medicine from the University of Melbourne in 1881, practised in South Yarra till 1923 and, having been Alfred Felton's personal physician, served as a trustee of the Felton Bequest from 1904 and as chairman from 1910. He died on 7 December 1930.

Select Bibliography

  • A Biographical Register of Queensland Women (Brisb, 1939)
  • J. R. Poynter, Russell Grimwade (Melb, 1967)
  • H. F. L. Brotherton, A College is Built (Brisb, 1973)
  • Woman's World, 1 Dec 1927
  • Argus (Melbourne), 8 Dec 1930, 23 Aug 1943
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Aug 1938
  • records (Janet Clarke Hall and University of Melbourne Archives)
  • private information.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Jacqueline Bell, 'Bage, Anna Frederika (Freda) (1883–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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