Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Winifred Anderson Carruthers (1890–1966)

by Kate Gray

This article was published:

Winifred Anderson Carruthers (1890-1966), Young Women's Christian Association administrator, was born on 1 January 1890 at Ryde, Sydney, ninth child of native-born parents Rev. James Edward Carruthers, Wesleyan minister, and his wife Mary Elizabeth, née McWilliam. (Sir) Joseph Carruthers was Winifred's uncle. She was educated at the Methodist Ladies' College, Burwood. Having attended a Christian students' camp, she became interested in the Y.W.C.A. and joined the Sydney branch in 1907.

Attracted to a career in the association, in 1910 Carruthers attended its first national training school; appointed as a secretary, she was involved in training and organizing members and volunteers. She travelled extensively, working as assistant-secretary (1912) at Auckland, New Zealand, and next as general secretary to the branch at Geelong, Victoria. Following World War I she returned to New Zealand before helping to establish the Y.W.C.A. in Perth in 1920-23.

As part of the Australian association's links with branches overseas, Carruthers spent some years abroad. In Britain in 1924-25 she worked first with the national holiday camps programme and then as general secretary of the Nottingham branch. Back in Australia in 1926, she joined the Y.W.C.A.'s national staff. After a further term at Nottingham as general secretary (1931-34), she resumed her post on the Australian staff and in 1935 studied part time at the University of Melbourne.

In 1940 Miss Carruthers became national training secretary and travelling secretary for the northern region. Appointed national general secretary early in 1942, she was responsible for all the Y.W.C.A.'s wartime work. Her duties included the provision of housing and recreation programmes for female munition workers and servicewomen. Although her hectic travelling schedule adversely affected her health and forced her to resign from this position in 1947, she continued to be employed by the association, initially as general secretary of the Brisbane branch and from 1949 as immigration secretary to the national body. In the latter capacity she worked with the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and the International Refugee Organization, visiting displaced persons in I.R.O. assembly camps in Europe. Home again, she furthered the Y.W.C.A.'s involvement with refugees in the Australian holding and reception centres. She subsequently spent five years as general secretary to the Adelaide branch.

In 1959 Carruthers was appointed M.B.E. Next year she resigned from official service with the Y.W.C.A. Described as a 'gentle woman with a firm manner', she continued to act as a national consultant and remained available to visit different branches when needed. Despite deteriorating health, she also embarked on the vast task of assembling the records of the Y.W.C.A. of Australia. While engaged on this work in Melbourne, she died on 12 June 1966 at her Camberwell home and was cremated with Methodist forms. Her contribution to the Y.W.C.A. had been central to the consolidation and expansion of the Australian organization.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Reiger, The Disenchantment of the Home (Melb, 1985)
  • M. Dunn, The Dauntless Bunch (Melb, 1991)
  • Australian Woman's Mirror, 24 Feb 1931
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Feb 1931, 12 Dec 1940, 1 Sept 1942, 2 Nov 1943, 20 May, 15 Nov 1949, 15 June 1966
  • Age (Melbourne), 14 June 1966
  • K. Gray, The Acceptable Face of Feminism: The National Council of Women of Victoria 1901-1919 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1988)
  • YWCA of Australia papers (University of Melbourne Archives).

Citation details

Kate Gray, 'Carruthers, Winifred Anderson (1890–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 January, 1890
Ryde, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


12 June, 1966 (aged 76)
Camberwell, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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.