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Ida Muriel Forsyth (1884–1953)

by Helen Jones

This article was published:

Ida Muriel Forsyth (1884-1953), nurse and community worker, was born on 17 August 1884 at Kooringa, South Australia, daughter of Robert Brummitt, an English-born medical practitioner, and his wife Jane, née Roach, who was native-born. Ida's parents were public-spirited Methodists and her education, especially at Tormore House school under Caroline Jacob, reinforced her family tradition of intellectual enquiry and Christian service. She trained as a nurse at Adelaide Children's Hospital in 1909-12 before accompanying her father on a tour of Fijian Methodist missions.

On 20 November 1915 Ida Brummitt joined the Australian Army Nursing Service. Discharged in June next year because of 'sickness at home', she re-enlisted as a staff nurse in February 1918. At this time she was 5 ft 3½ ins (161 cm) tall, weighed 8 st. 9¾ lb. (55.2 kg) and had a clear complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair. In November she was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force. After serving in India, she fell dangerously ill with enteric fever. She returned to Adelaide where her appointment terminated in February 1920.

On 29 March 1923 at her father's residence, Medindie, Ida married Samuel Forsyth, a Methodist minister and widower with two children; they were to have one son. Ida devoted herself to her family and to supporting her husband. She contributed to the Methodist Ministers' Wives Circle and was active in the Maughan Church branch of the Women's Auxiliary of Overseas Methodist Missions until 1951 (president 1929-37). With Samuel she visited British city central missions in 1929. Practical and adaptable, Ida helped the Sisters of the People in the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission's social welfare and relief work and was a fearless publicist for the poor and the unemployed. She attracted support by her calm, warm manner and skills in speaking and writing. In 1929-52 she led the mission's mothers' meetings. A crèche freed tired mothers to enjoy their weekly 'Bright Hour' with singing, talks, a thrift club, afternoon teas and parties at Christmas. From 1936 the Forsyths lived next to the Magill Methodist Children's Homes; Ida befriended the children and helped the staff.

In 1930 Samuel founded Kuitpo (pronounced 'Kypo') Industrial Colony, in the southern Mount Lofty ranges, to provide training for unemployed men and Mrs Forsyth became a standard-bearer. Her logical, heartfelt articles and pamphlets warned that neglecting young unemployed men could make them 'idle spongers': Kuitpo's training could 'stem this waste'. As vice-president of the Kuitpo Helpers' Association from 1932 she publicized the colony. The association supported her proposal to invite 'people of ability and influence' to join in large-scale fund-raising. The resulting undenominational Central Mission Aid Society, almost continuously under her presidency in 1932-52, collected substantial sums for Kuitpo and mission relief work, especially through annual, two-day galas in Adelaide's Exhibition Building when women from nearly all the churches and the Jewish Women's Guild worked together. In 1936 Ida conceived an ingenious 'Pioneer Ships' competition: she organized twelve young women from pioneer families to compete for penny votes, raising over £1000. She believed that because Kuitpo lacked official Methodist sanction, help came from 'every section of the community'.

In 1944 Ida broadcast bi-weekly talks on the mission's radio stations 5KA and 5AU. 'Between Ourselves' offered lonely people 'something else to think about'. She and Samuel visited missions and churches overseas in 1950. He retired in 1952 and Ida wrote his biography, He Came from Ireland (Adelaide, 1954), in which, characteristically, she barely figured. Survived by her husband, son and stepson, Ida died of a cerebrovascular accident on 24 October 1953 in hospital in North Adelaide and was buried in Payneham cemetery. Her estate was sworn for probate at £10,427.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Brummitt, A Winter Holiday in Fiji (Lond, 1914)
  • South Australian Methodist, 30 Oct 1953
  • Central Methodist Mission (South Australian), Annual Report, 1929-52
  • Maughan Church branch, Women’s Association of Overseas Methodist Missions minutes, 1929-51 (Adelaide Central Mission archives)
  • B2455, item Brummitt, I. (National Archives of Australia)
  • Forsyth papers (State Library of South Australia)
  • Tormore House school, Old Scholars Assn records (State Library of South Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Helen Jones, 'Forsyth, Ida Muriel (1884–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Brummitt, Ida

17 August, 1884
Kooringa, South Australia, Australia


24 October, 1953 (aged 69)
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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