Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Felicia Hopkins (1841–1933)

by Ellen Jordan

This article was published:

Felicia Hopkins (1841-1933), social worker, was born on 4 January 1841 at Bocking, Essex, England, daughter of Lister Smith, who was an 'upper class artisan' (her own description) employed in Courtauld's knitting mills, and his wife Deborah, née Hayward, who had conducted a ladies' school at Braintree. Both parents were members of the Society of Friends and held radical political views, supporting Chartism and the rights of women. After education at a Quaker boarding-school at Croydon, Felicia worked as a governess.

In 1861-62 she and four brothers and sisters joined their friends the Hopkins family, also Quakers, in migrating to Queensland. Felicia reached Brisbane in the Wansfell in 1862. On 18 December 1865 she married the 21-year-old Francis Hopkins. He found employment in Brisbane and Rockhampton newspaper offices, then worked as a schoolteacher at Pink Lily Lagoon near Rockhampton in 1872-73; Felicia taught needlework to the girls. In 1874 he established a bookselling and stationery business at Rockhampton. While he returned to teaching in 1874-76, Felicia presumably managed the shop and, after he died in 1913, she kept up the business until 1924. They had five children.

Mrs Hopkins first became involved with the Young Women's Christian Association in 1888. This interdenominational religious society, then concerned mainly with the welfare of single working girls, had been founded in England in 1855 and was launched in Australia at Geelong, Victoria, in 1872. In 1888 six branches were established in Queensland but, of these, only the Rockhampton branch, of which Felicia Hopkins was secretary for twenty-four years, survived for more than a year or two. Their main work was to meet and protect young women on migrant ships and to organize lectures, classes and social evenings for working girls. Felicia Hopkins's personal concern for the girls went further. She is known to have taken unmarried pregnant girls into her own home until their future could be settled. In a new effort to expand the Y.W.C.A. in 1899, the Brisbane branch was re-formed and Felicia Hopkins undertook an extended tour of Queensland, setting up new branches at Townsville, Clermont, Barcaldine and Longreach and finding referees for girls new to the town in four other centres.

The Y.W.C.A. was not the sole public interest of Mrs Hopkins. A keen member of the Society of Friends, she was Rockhampton correspondent for the London connexion and had helped to establish a Rockhampton meeting-house by 1880. She was also a member of the Benevolent Society from 1867-68; she and her husband were interested in the welfare of orphans and in the late 1860s founded their own children's home where orphans could be boarded. The couple were active in the political Central Separation Movement. They also promoted temperance—her enthusiasm for this cause is vividly remembered by those who knew this tiny, active woman. She died on 15 July 1933 and was buried in North Rockhampton cemetery with Methodist forms. Two daughters survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ellen Jordan, 'Hopkins, Felicia (1841–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 19 July 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]

Alternative Names
  • Smith, Felicia

4 January, 1841
Bocking, Essex, England


15 July, 1933 (aged 92)
Queensland, 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.