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Marian Fleming Harwood (1846–1934)

by Ann-Mari Jordens

This article was published:

Marian Fleming Harwood (1846-1934), scholar, pacifist and philanthropist, was born on 9 March 1846 at Greenock, Scotland, daughter of Henry Reid, merchant, and his wife Catherine, née Barnett. Brought up in Belfast, Ireland, and taught French by her mother and at the Belfast Academy, Marian was also fluent in German. She studied Romance philology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and counted Matthew Arnold among her friends.

On 2 December 1885 at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church, County Down, she married Septimus Harwood, an English-born medical practitioner, and next year they came to New South Wales for his health. He died in 1889; they had no children and Marian returned to Ireland. After her mother's death, she came back to Australia and in March 1896, granted admission ad eundum from the Royal University of Ireland, enrolled at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1897). Harwood then attended the school of English and German, University of Melbourne (M.A., 1900). Her book, The Shakespeare Cult in Germany from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Time, was published in Sydney in 1907.

Involved that year with Rose Scott in the founding of the Peace Society, New South Wales branch, Mrs Septimus Harwood became a vice-president in 1909, and thereafter played an important part in its activities. She represented the peace societies of Sydney and Melbourne at the eighteenth Peace Congress in Stockholm in 1910, and spoke on the Australian peace movement at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and at a conference at Coventry, England, where she met leaders of the international movement. She observed sympathetically the troubles of the suffragettes, writing to Scott, 'it is hard to be calm and patient when tried and treated as they have been for nearly 50 years'. While in Europe, she also spoke about Australia as a representative of the National Council of Women at a conference of women held in conjunction with the Exposition Internationale, Brussels.

Returning to Sydney in 1912 Harwood founded and edited the journal Pax. She also established a library of peace literature at her rooms in Sydney, where she taught languages. Eye problems forced her to resign from the N.C.W. in 1914 and as editor of Pax in 1916. During World War I the peace society quietly continued its meetings. She later wrote that pacifists (she preferred the word 'peacemakers') 'were often cut by old acquaintances, and cold-shouldered sometimes even by old friends: our private letters . . . ruthlessly opened by officious censors'.

A member of the Teachers' Association of New South Wales, in 1912 Harwood instituted a series of talks in Sydney that aimed at 'familiarising the sound of foreign languages to the ears of British people'. In 1917 the lectures were taken over by the Modern Language Association, of which she remained a member. In her pamphlet The Neglect of the Study of Modern Languages in Australia, she advocated compulsory oral examinations and the teaching of foreign languages from kindergarten level. She disapproved of Esperanto. Her publications included an article on the Australian women's movement in Christian Commonwealth, monographs about the peace movement and reminiscences of Rose Scott. Harwood corresponded extensively with overseas pacifist and feminist organizations.

Although supporting the League of Nations, in the 1920s Harwood regarded it as 'only one of many efforts peacewards' and disdained Australian members of the League of Nations Union as Imperialists and non-pacifists who joined because of the annual fancy-dress balls. She considered protection 'one of the causes of war' and free trade as 'one of the Forces that would make for Peace'. Although she was a Christian, she observed that while clergymen 'always pray ''Give peace in our time, O' lord,” as a rule they refrain from preaching much about it, and during the War left the ''Sermon on the Mount” severely alone'.

With boundless intellectual and physical energy, Harwood still swam regularly at 82, was forthright in her opinions and was sometimes harsh in her judgements of people. Amelia Lambrick described her as 'exceedingly hard to get on with' and 'most exacting'. Independently wealthy, Harwood practised public and private philanthropy, endowing a children's peace prize and beds in many children's homes and hospitals and in each of the Queen Victoria homes for consumptives. She lived all her life in boarding-houses, for many years at 129 Macquarie Street, where she first went to reside in 1909. Marian Harwood died on 29 July 1934 at Quambaar, Bellevue Hill, and was cremated with Congregational forms. Her estate was sworn for probate at £282,511 in New South Wales and £267,122 in England.

Select Bibliography

  • J. A. Allen, Rose Scott (Melb, 1994)
  • Peace Society (New South Wales), Annual Report, 1910, p 6, 1911, p 5, 1912, p 4, 1916, p 4
  • A-M. Jordens, ‘Against the Tide: The Growth and Decline of a Liberal Anti-War Movement in Australia, 1905-1918’, Historical Studies, 22, no 88, Apr 1987, p 373
  • A-M. Jordens, ‘Marian Harwood’, in H. Radi (ed), 200 Australian Women (Syd, 1988), p 47
  • A-M. Jordens, ‘Anti-war Organisations in a Society at War, 1914-18’, Journal of Australian Studies, no 26, May 1990, p 78
  • Pax (Sydney), no 1, July 1912, p 6, no 35, July 1915, p 21, no 44-45, May-June 1916, p 35
  • Sun (Sydney), 2 Apr 1911, p 19
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1925, p 13, 1 Aug 1934, p 19
  • Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom records (University of Melbourne Library).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Ann-Mari Jordens, 'Harwood, Marian Fleming (1846–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 15 July 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
  • Reid, Marian

9 March, 1846
Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland


29 July, 1934 (aged 88)
Bellevue Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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.

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