Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Annette Ellen Bear-Crawford (1853–1899)

by Janice N. Brownfoot

This article was published:

View Previous Version

Annette Bear-Crawford, n.d.

Annette Bear-Crawford, n.d.

National Library of Australia, 28634623

Annette Ellen Bear-Crawford (1853-1899), feminist, was born on 23 February 1853 at Collingwood, Melbourne, eldest daughter of John Pinney Bear and his wife Annette Eliza, née Williams. Bear had come to Victoria from Devon, England, in 1841 and joined his father in a prosperous stock and station agency, which he sold about 1857 before going back to England. The family returned to Victoria in 1860 and Bear established the Tabilk (Chateau Tahbilk) vineyard on the Goulburn River. He was a member of the Legislative Council for Southern Province from 1863 until 1878 when he retired, settling in England for ten years. He died at Tabilk vineyard on 27 October 1889.

Annette Bear had three brothers and five sisters. Their father believed in giving his daughters 'every educational advantage' and Annette was taught by governesses in Australia and England before attending Cheltenham Ladies' College, Gloucestershire. After some time in France and Germany she trained in social work in England, gaining experience of work in city slums and in London's New Hospital. She met leaders of the women's movement and became well known as an active member of the National Vigilance Association.

In April 1890 Annette rejoined her mother in Victoria. She became a leading force in the growing women's movement which was then most concerned with gaining the franchise. Annette Bear believed that 'the vote would be the most effective instrument for improving conditions of life'. She used her fine organizing abilities to strengthen and eventually unite the existing suffrage societies. With the support of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, she formed the Victorian Women's Suffrage (Franchise) League. Then, on her initiative, the United Council for Woman Suffrage was founded in 1894, with representatives from organizations interested in the cause; she was first president and later honorary secretary. The council lobbied politicians and municipal councillors and organized a monster petition in favour of women's suffrage, but failed to persuade members of the Legislative Council to allow the passage of a franchise bill.

Annette Bear also helped to educate women for public work. An accomplished and logical speaker, she trained other women in the art; Vida Goldstein, who accompanied her to meetings, was shown how to handle hecklers and answer questions. Annette constantly addressed W.C.T.U. and suffrage meetings and also encouraged women to gain election to school boards of advice. She helped to obtain amendments to legislation affecting women, including the raising of the age of consent to sixteen, and the appointment of women as factory inspectors and to the Benevolent Asylum Committee. She also saw the need for police matrons and women to administer the Infant Life Protection Act (1890), and was one of the first members of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children and of the Victorian Vigilance Society. She was undoubtedly a stimulus and inspiration to Victorian feminists of the time. Perhaps her most enduring achievement was the foundation in Melbourne of the Queen Victoria Hospital for Women, which grew out of her concern for the welfare of unmarried mothers and their children; she organized the successful Queen's Willing Shilling fund in 1897 to launch the scheme but did not live to see the hospital opened.

On 28 September 1894, at Christ Church, South Yarra, Annette had married William Crawford, a solicitor nine years her junior, and was thereafter known as Mrs Bear-Crawford. Her marriage brought her happiness but did little to change the even flow of her life. Beatrice Webb described her as a 'gentle-tempered intelligent woman who keeps me company in the dowdiness of her dress'. Domestic, affectionate and well-read, she had a 'lovable, sunny nature', but as an ardent feminist she believed strongly in women's equality with men; the Age reported in an editorial of 22 September 1897 that she had 'uttered the rather astounding dictum that most things worth having were originally produced by women. Man, she said, is destructive, while woman is constructive'.

In November 1898, after a farewell evening at the Prahran Town Hall, she left for England to attend the Women's International Conference. Her husband joined her in London only three weeks before she died of pneumonia, on 7 June 1899, aged 46. On 4 July a memorial service was held in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne; in 1902 a statue was unveiled in London to her memory and, in tribute to her work in England and Australia, her English friends placed a bronze plaque on the wall of Christ Church, South Yarra.

Select Bibliography

  • Women's Political Association, Life and Work of Miss Vida Goldstein (Melb, 1912)
  • Queen's Willing Shilling Testimonial (Social Science pamphlets, vol 42, State Library of Victoria)
  • B. Webb, The Webbs' Australian Diary, 1898, A. G. Austin ed (Melb, 1965)
  • Mrs. F. Anderson, ‘Women in Australia’, M. Atkinson (ed), Australia: Economic and Political Studies (Melb, 1920)
  • A. Henry, ‘Marching towards citizenship’, F. Fraser and N. Palmer (eds), Centenary Gift Book (Melb, 1934)
  • Australian Herald (Melbourne), Sept 1899
  • Australian Women's Sphere (Melbourne), 1 Sept 1900, 10 Mar, 10 June 1902, Jan 1905
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 Sept 1897
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 19 June 1902
  • J. A. Hone, The Movement for the Higher Education of Women in Victoria in the Later Nineteenth Century (M.A. thesis, Monash University, 1965)
  • J. N. Brownfoot, Women's Organisations … in Victoria c.1890 to c.1908 (B.A. Hons thesis, Monash University, 1968)
  • Julia Rapke, Vida Goldstein (National Library of Australia)
  • Alice Henry papers (National Library of Australia)
  • Rischbieth collection (National Library of Australia).

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Janice N. Brownfoot, 'Bear-Crawford, Annette Ellen (1853–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 July 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Annette Bear-Crawford, n.d.

Annette Bear-Crawford, n.d.

National Library of Australia, 28634623

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Bear, Annette

23 February, 1853
Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


7 June, 1899 (aged 46)
London, Middlesex, England

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations