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Marion Phoebe Holmes (1880–1966)

by June Ogilvie

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Marion Louisa Holmes

Marion Louisa Holmes (1856-1921) and Marion Phoebe Holmes (1880-1966), workers for charity, were mother and daughter. Marion Louisa was born on 24 May 1856 at Kooringa, South Australia, daughter of Joseph Charles Genders, wine and spirit merchant, and his wife Albina Louisa, née Perry. On 5 December 1878, at Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide, she married Henry Diggens Holmes (1846-1931), a banker. Both were devout Anglicans. Marion Phoebe, their elder daughter, was born in Adelaide on 29 September 1880. Mrs Holmes suffered many childbirth difficulties resulting in miscarriages and three stillborn children. Albina Emma (Emmie) was born in 1883 and Henry William (Willy) in 1889; he was mentally retarded. The family moved to Perth in 1890 when Henry, a stern and conservative financier, became general manager of the Western Australian Bank.

Next year Marion and Henry founded a branch of the Ministering Children's League, a British organization 'for children of the educated and wealthier classes—to train them in habits of unselfishness and thoughtfulness for … their poorer brothers and sisters'. Phoebe, Emmie, and seventy-one others, joined. They raised sufficient money to build a large adults' convalescent home (opened 1897) at Cottesloe Beach. Marion was secretary till 1914, vice-president in 1897-1913 and president in 1913-21. Henry was treasurer and trustee.

Marion Holmes was a leader in a circle of influential ladies working for welfare reforms for women and children that included Edith Cowan, Lady Onslow, (Lady) Gwenyfred James, Janetta Griffiths-Foulkes and Dr Roberta Jull, Phoebe's close friend. In the 1890s the group petitioned the government for female suffrage and later established several reformist organizations. Their favourite meeting-place was Banksia, the Holmes family home at Cottesloe Beach. Marion Holmes was in 1894 a founder and active leader of the Karrakatta Club for women, an intellectual discussion group; she helped to found the Women's Service Guilds and was on the first executive of the Western Australian National Council of Women; she and Henry also supported the Children's Protection Society of Western Australia. Noted for her 'philanthropic zeal' and 'lovable nature', Marion died of Bright's disease on 3 August 1921 and was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery.

Phoebe was educated with her sister at Miss Amy Best's High School for Girls, Perth. They remained unmarried and devoted their lives to good causes and caring for their brother. Emmie supported the Ministering Children's League and the Girls' Friendly Society. Phoebe, more forceful, even autocratic, was active in the Karrakatta Club from 1897. As her mother faded, Phoebe took a more prominent role in the league; she was secretary in 1914-21. In 1957 it disbanded and gave the remaining funds to the Slow Learning Group of Western Australia. After her father's death in 1931, she was trustee and president of the convalescent home; the government bought it in 1963. Phoebe bequeathed most of her estate of £46,218 for the building of a home for the frail aged at Trigg, the Meath Ministering League Anglican Homes (Inc.). It accommodates seventy people.

As president of the Western Australian National Council of Women from 1925, Phoebe Holmes advocated the inclusion of women on juries, anti-gambling legislation, the establishment of a university chair of obstetrics, and community care for the mentally handicapped. She worked for years for the Young Women's Christian Association, as president in 1936, member of the national executive in 1939, and president in 1966. She also belonged to the University of Western Australia Women's College Fund Committee and the League of Nations Union.

On 6 September 1966 Phoebe Holmes died at her home at West Perth where she had lived with her sister and brother, both of whom predeceased her. Her ashes are buried in Karrakatta cemetery, Perth.

Select Bibliography

  • J. G. Wilson (ed), Western Australia's Centenary, 1829-1929 (Perth, 1929)
  • R. M. James, The Meath Story (Perth, 1982)
  • Ministering Children's League records (State Library of Western Australia)
  • Holmes papers (State Library of Western Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

June Ogilvie, 'Holmes, Marion Phoebe (1880–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 29 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 September, 1880
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


6 September, 1966 (aged 85)
West Perth, Perth, Western Australia, 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.